A third of lawyers feel careers stifled

Private practice lawyers think lack of opportunity is holding back their careers, according to research conducted by international legal recruitment specialists Laurence Simons.

15 per cent of a survey group of more than 200 lawyers working in private practice feel their pursuit of partnership is being hindered by the reduced number of partners retiring in their firm.

There has been a 30 per cent decrease in partner retirement and those leaving the profession each year (down from 12 per cent to 8 per cent) over the last 15 years and this is having a knock-on effect.

Just seven per cent of lawyers specified lack of colleagues moving to work for other firms, as the reason for their slowed down career progression.

Despite the fall in the number of partner retirements, the average annual rise in the number of solicitors (3.2 per cent) since 1990 has not been matched by the growth of partners (1.8 per cent).

Growth in solicitor numbers is significantly higher than growth in partners meaning a bottleneck of competition.

Guy Adams, director co-head of Private Practice at Laurence Simons said: ““Many solicitors are finding their career path blocked by those who have already made partner.

“While we have seen an increase in the number of solicitors, the number of partners hasn’t risen as significantly. The decrease in retirement figures has had a negative effect on promotion opportunities at all levels.

“Where previously, years of tenure guaranteed a relatively quick succession up the corporate ladder, lawyers now have to consider alternative career strategies in order to achieve promotions.

Analysis of 200 partner profiles from the top 28 firms in the UK shows the average partner in the UK is aged 44 and has been with their current firm for 11 years.

Retirement figures aside, the unstable economy means increased competition for top positions is set to rise further.

Guy Adams adds: “An increased emphasis has been put on creating as lean a business structure as possible in order to safely ride the latest economic instability and law firms are no exception.

“This restructuring has led to fewer partner positions becoming available despite the consistent flow of new talent into the lower tiers of firms.

“This problem is exacerbating the impact fewer partner retirements is having on the lack of opportunities available to those with progression in mind.”  

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