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Legal firms 'need to do more to advance careers'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 17/11/14

A survey of UK legal firms shows general job satisfaction is up, but the desire for career advancement is not being adequately met. The need for better career advancement is a key concern among staff at law firms, according to the Legal Week 2014 Employee Satisfaction Report.

Promotion prospects are regarded by employees as the most important concern they have, with an average rating of 8.7 out of ten.

However, the poll of 2,500 workers found the typical employee only rating their firm at 6.6 out of ten when it actually came to providing career advancement opportunities, which Legal Week described as one of the largest gaps between aspiration and satisfaction in the whole survey.

Other significant gulfs between desire and reality included 'feeling valued' and work-life balance.
The importance of these issues is something law firms may need to pay increasing attention to if they are to have effective employee retention strategies, since pay has now been usurped as the key motivator for staff.
Greenberg Traurig Maher was the firm with the best rating for the perception that all fee earners have equal access to promotion opportunities, with a score of 8.7, while Shoosmiths came second on eight.

One way of promoting staff is to make them partners, but while 47 per cent of junior lawyers aspired to this - up from 43 per cent in 2013 - employers need to be careful of a gender divide on this point, with 51 per cent of men seeking to be partners compared with just 33 per cent of women.

The best news of all for legal firms was that overall staff satisfaction was up on last year, with the average score increasing from 6.8 to 7.2. However, 21 per cent of staff are looking to change job, one per cent more than in 2013. This varies widely between sectors, from 30 per cent in technology and telecoms to only ten per cent in pensions.