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by Bibi Siew on January 25, 2024

3 Things Junior Legal Professionals Want to Tell Law Firms

In our Early Career Survey (2023), we surveyed approximately 150 students. The primary objective was to gain an understanding of their perspectives, pain points and discern the specific attributes they sought in their ideal firm. Contrary to common assumptions that junior legal professionals may primarily prioritise work from home/hybrid working arrangements and opportunities with competitive remuneration, our findings revealed a much more nuanced reality.

While salary remains a crucial factor in the decision-making process, our survey revealed that it is not the most exclusive consideration. Notably, 33% of respondents indicated a readiness to reject a job offer if it did not meet their expectations, and nearly half (47%) indicated a willingness to depart from their current job if they perceived a misalignment with it and their long-term goals. These findings highlight a multifaceted set of concerns that young legal professionals grapple with when navigating their career paths.

We asked respondents, “When considering future employment opportunities, how important are the following?” The top three priorities identified by young legal professionals were as follows:

  1. The Strong Desire to be Mentored

    The ability to work with and learn from experienced legal professionals came first with 46% ranking this as ‘essential/crucial’. This signifies a growing recognition among early professionals of the invaluable guidance that only seasoned mentors can provide. They understand that their senior counterparts bring knowledge and experience that goes beyond a traditional textbook.

  2. Focus on Professional Development

    A dedication focused on professional development also ranked high (45%) indicating a keen awareness among emerging legal talent of the importance of continuous learning and growth in their careers. Despite this, more than half of employers that were surveyed noted that they do not provide mentorship or professional development opportunities. Firms who fail to provide chances for development may result in the production of a skills gap, increased turnover, talent attraction challenges and a reduction in productivity and morale from those who feel stagnant in their roles.

  3. An Emphasis on Achieving a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Achieving a healthy work-life balance secured a significant position out of the 11 factors considered, 43% of participants ranked this element as crucial and essential. While this trend slowly emerged at the beginning of 2020, it was exacerbated by the pandemic where people were forced to work from home. The idea peaked during this time as young professionals were able to see and even experience benefits and the potential of having a better work-life balance.

Overall, there is a notable trend away from solely focusing on financial considerations when evaluating job offers or deciding to stay in a position. In a society that often prioritises immediate financial gains, it's assumed that junior legal talent would opt for convenience and instant gratification over a deliberate investment in building a successful legal career. Instead, our survey found that there is an evident shift towards considering aspects related to job satisfaction and the pursuit of meaningful employment. The ramifications of failing to provide development opportunities extend beyond individual dissatisfaction. Students are more willing to de-prioritise certain factors, such as remote or hybrid work and even salary, in favour of opportunities for growth and the presence of a supportive mentor. This highlights a growing awareness among junior legal professionals that beyond the formal education and technical skills acquired in law school, the guidance and mentorship provided by experienced legal practitioners are essential components in shaping their success.

As employers, it becomes imperative to actively listen and integrate the preferences articulated by emerging legal professionals into future recruitment and retention strategies. According to our 2023 Legal Survey, nearly 44% of firms express concerns about the recruitment and retention of legal professionals. With this misalignment in expectation noted above, should it come as a surprise? Recognising the role of mentorship and tailoring strategies to meet the unique needs of early professionals has become a key imperative for firms aiming to attract and retain top talent. Ensuring not only their success, but also fostering a culture of continuous growth within the firm.

In upcoming blog posts, we will be exploring what expectations new employees and applicants are facing from their employers. If you are interested in reviewing more discoveries, you will be able to download our Early Career Survey when it comes out.

Cover of our 2023 Early Career Legal Survey

Discover what aspiring legal professionals expect as they enter the industry and how prepared law firms are to respond to the demands of junior staff. Download our 2023 Early Career Survey.

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