More female lawyers in the UK than men are dissatisfied with their employers – to the extent that 36% are at risk of leaving their firm over the next two years.
According to a survey by Thomson Reuters, 15% of UK women associates said they were “highly likely” to leave in the next two years, compared with 0% of male associates.
The Thomson Reuters Associate pulse survey claims to provide insights into the degree of engagement of junior lawyers working in law firms in the UK by tracking the qualities that they most like and dislike about their firms.
Flexible working policies that law firms have implemented are valued highly among both male and female associates” – Natalie Runyon, Thomson Reuters
Male lawyers in the study were more likely than their female counterparts to feel supported at work by other fee-earners. Out of a mark of 10 being extremely satisfied, male lawyers gave an average score of 8.1 to their firm, compared with 7.6 among women.
Men were also more likely to say they were treated fairly at work, giving their firm a score of 8.5, compared with 8.0 among female associates.
Pay and remuneration was the biggest area of discontent among male and female associates, an area with an average score of just 6.4 overall. Another low-scoring area was “opportunities for growth” although male associates gave firms a slightly more favourable score of 7.4, compared to just 6.9 among women.
Areas that both male and female associates said they were most happy with included flexible working – men awarded their firm a score of 8.4, with women giving 8.2. When asked if they felt they could “be themselves at work”, firms also scored highly among both male and female associates, with men giving an average score of 8.5 and women 8.2.
The study also revealed a difference in the number of billable hours worked by male and female associates in the past year. Male associates clocked up an average of 1,514 hours of billable work, compared with 1,301 by their female counterparts.
Natalie Runyon, director of ESG content and advisory services at Thomson Reuters, said: “The survey shows flexible working policies that law firms have implemented are valued highly among both male and female associates. However, dissatisfaction around remuneration should be a concern to law firms, particularly given talent shortages within the profession and high competition for talent.
“Firms should also be looking at what they can do to become more inclusive. Women were less likely to feel supported by other fee-earners and less satisfied with the opportunities for growth within their firm than their male counterparts. This is worrying. Firms that fail to address these important areas could see greater levels of attrition amongst young female talent.”
Ivor Adair, partner at Fox and Partners, suggested that law firms with a progressive mindset could benefit from women’s preferences at work. He said: “Many law firms have a lot more to do to provide inclusive and supportive environments where women can flourish and develop their careers. Female talent will walk out the door if needs are not properly understood.
“The report indicates pay and remuneration need addressing, but also behavioural issues which can be a hard nut to crack, requiring sustained attention from leadership teams.
“Progressive firms that operate under non-traditional models, may seize an opportunity to pick up high flyers in the short term. Offering not merely flexibility, but also mentoring, exposure to the right work and removing the barriers to success for female lawyers – which are very often cultural – may prove to be a focus in new recruitment strategies.”