Is Big Law Really a ‘Hamster Wheel’ and ‘Soul Suck’? Why Are They Leaving?

stress levels of young lawyers

The ‘Great Resignation’ in the law profession has not seen lawyers quitting the law, but rather moving to other firms, according to a US survey conducted by Bloomberg Law.

An increase in the number of lawyers quitting since the beginning of the pandemic has not indicated that lawyers are altogether dissatisfied with the law, but rather simply seeking other firms to work for.

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The survey asked lawyers how many of their colleagues and left firms with over half those departing moving to larger firms in the same practice area, while 44 per cent moved in-house, an area that provides both career and work-life balance opportunities often lacking in private practice and 34 per cent moved to smaller firms in the same practice area.

Is Big Law Really a 'Hamster Wheel' and 'Soul Suck'? Why Are They Leaving? 1

The growing market for lawyers has provided something of a luxury for those seeking to take the opportunities on offer – both higher pay with the rising pay rates on offer – along with some who seek the chance to work with firms providing lower billable criteria, remote working, greater diversity, lifestyle and related factors.

Nevertheless, there have been very high departure rates from the professions generally with a record numbers of workers in recent months quitting their jobs. The US Bureau of Labor statistics show that those in the business and professional services sector have departed at rates even higher than the overall workforce with over 40 per cent of all workers are considering quitting this year, according to research by Microsoft.

Like most things post-pandemic, the working environment has changed and yet the demand for legal services continues to increase as law firms enjoy high demand, high remuneration and also high pressure.

A column in Reuters earlier this year reported on what some lawyers thought of their work.

Big Law is brutal. “A hamster wheel,” one lawyer said. A “soul suck,” said another. It’s filled with “shambling husks,” said a third, while another un-fondly recalled “sour old men partners.”

But the biggest complaint is the overwhelming workload and the stress that accompanies it.

The combination of events has seen a fluid legal market achieve movement across the sector, even if many are not opting out of the law altogether, but simply seeking a place to work that better suits their current interests.

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