Understanding Why Attorneys and Staff Leave the Legal Profession: 3 Tips For Retaining Top Talent

The legal profession can be demanding on everyone from attorneys to paralegals and office staff. Why are people choosing to leave the legal profession? 

In my legal career, I have enjoyed the opportunity to work for firms, government entities, and companies in their legal department. This has allowed me to work with different attorneys in varying atmospheres. I have seen people come and go for a variety of reasons but these three seem to resonate with everyone.

Lack of Parental Leave: Many small law firms do not offer parental leave. Or if they do offer it, they may frown upon a lawyer taking it. And when new parents take their leave, it is often without pay so there is a strong incentive to return to work early. There are always tales at professional networking events about how opposing counsel or judges refused to allow scheduling accommodations. There are too many stories about women lawyers writing trial briefs from home during the first or second week of maternity leave. These examples cause potential parents to consider other employment options.

Strategy for Managing Parental Leave: Having a strategy in place to manage workload and coverage is a great way to reassure an employee that the firm supports them and supports their leave time. Perhaps, there is coverage within the law firm that can help. If not, consider hiring someone on a contract basis using a service such as a local recruiter or LAWCLERK: Attorneys On Demand | Remote Attorney Jobs.

Work-life Balance: Many of the legal professionals that I spoke with mentioned that the lack of work-life balance was a big part of resignation. Whether its high billable hour requirements with no leeway for life events or whether it’s working during family vacation because office coverage was not available. This has become especially important during the outbreak of COVID-19. Entire families needed to work and attend school from home. Now that most businesses and schools are back in buildings, that does not mean all employees are able to fully return. We are also in the midst of a shortage of employees in many industries, including legal. Employers who want to maintain the best employees will need to consider offering accommodations and benefits that address the work-life imbalance most employees are experiencing. 

Renewing Work-life Balance: Outlining a clear work-life balance with employees includes accommodations to work from home, allowing scheduling changes for in and out of office, and providing coverage for long term absences such as family medical leave. An employer that recognizes work-life balance issues will likely retain talented employees during this difficult hiring season.  

Burnout: Too many lawyers work under the burden of burnout. Living in a non-stop pandemic, balancing wellness and mental health concerns, physical concerns, carrying for children as well as aging parents has taken a toll. Vacations often include a laptop and work phone for emergencies or “checking in” which dilutes the value of the time away.

Strategy for Preventing Burnout: Encourage wellness practices in your firm by offering wellness classes such as meditation and mindfulness training. Encourage your employees to set appropriate boundaries with clients and within the office. And finally, lead by example by taking care of yourself and modeling good behavior such as taking your own vacation and clipping those office cords.

About The Author

Jessica Riley

Jessica Riley is a graduate of the Meredith College Paralegal Program and a Marketing Assistant with Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services.