Over 1,000 lawyers took part in a recent Lawyers Weekly poll, with the results revealing that the profession is split between those who love working in law (31%) and those who are anxious to leave (30%).
A further 23% said that they had stayed in the profession because it was all they knew. This view has been criticised by Law Council of Australia head Joe Catanzariti, who has pointed out that holding a law degree does not mean you need to practice in the private or public sectors.
The remaining 16% of respondents said that they stayed in the profession because of the salary. Mahlab Recruitment managing director Lisa Gazis has said that, in her experience, salary only becomes an important factor if "everything else is right," and that nobody wants to earn a lot of money but be unhappy in their job.
However, Gazis also understands the ambivalent response of many lawyers to their profession, agreeing that "law can be quite pressured," with the economic climate forcing lawyers to work longer and harder and with less job security. Others may wish to leave the profession to seek out new challenges, a more relaxed work environment, or a better work-life balance.
Catanzariti said that the dissatisfaction revealed in the survey may be due to unmet expectations, and has blamed television programs for painting an unrealistic picture of private practice.
The Law Council of Australia has this week launched a new study, the National Attrition and Reengagement Study, which will hopefully "obtain quantitative data and confirm trends in progression of both male and female lawyers, and produce a report outlining practical measures which can be implemented to address the causes of high attrition rates among women lawyers, and re-engage women lawyers who have left the profession."
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