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The Optimal Age for Legal Professionals to Start a Family

Posted by: Laurence Simons 25/07/12
  • Laurence Simons survey found 31.6 to be the optimal age for legal professionals to start a family
  • Female respondents perceived 32.3 to be the most favourable age to have their first child
  • Male respondents would ideally start a family at the age of 30.6
  • The average in-house lawyer at the age of 31.6 will compromise £75,287.84 in earnings during a 12 month maternity period earning statutory maternity pay
  • The average lawyer within private practice will compromise £68,678.72 during a 12 month maternity period earning statutory maternity pay

Laurence Simons has conducted a survey of 300 international legal professionals asking at what age they feel it is optimal to start a family, so to not impact on their careers. On average, respondents felt that 31.6 would be the right age to start a family.

Female respondents felt that starting a family at the age of 32.3 was optimal, indicative of the increased opportunities available to women in the workplace. Male respondents opted for the younger age of 30.6.

The conventional career path of a lawyer suggests that given the ages specified in the survey, men would be approximately 6 years’ post qualified whereas women would be approximately 8 years’ post qualified.

According to the Laurence Simons Salary Survey, between the ages of 30 and 32, the earning potential of a lawyer within In-house can increase by approximately £11,000 and by approximately £5000 for those within Private Practice. The decision to delay starting a family could increase maternity pay by £1,142.31 per annum for those within In-house and £558.14 for those within Private Practice (based on the figures provided in the table).

Lucinda Moule, Laurence Simons Managing Director comments: “The results of the survey suggest that female lawyers would prefer to wait until they are heading towards a management position before starting a family, possibly impacting less on their career progression than if they were to have children at a younger age.

“With the rising cost of childcare, house prices and student loans, it seems logical that majority of people are waiting for their thirties, when they have achieved a level of success and security, before considering a family. Within the In-house market, we have seen a number of cases where legal professionals will take a shorter maternity leave to ensure they don’t fall behind at work as well as ensuring their earning potential are not compromised”.

For those lawyers considering a family, the tables below detail the possible impact it could have on their earning potential during a 12 month maternity period.

View the in-house table

View the Private Practice table

An in-house lawyer at the age of 31.6 could potentially compromise £75,287.84 in earnings during a 12 month maternity period whilst earning statutory maternity pay. Similarly those within private practice could compromise as much as £68,678.72 during a 12 month maternity period earning statutory maternity pay.

Although initiatives such as part time employment and flexible working hours assist those starting a family, the earning potential of the parent who takes time off work will be compromised and it is very rare for employers to offer maternity/paternity pay at the full level of compensation. For some legal professionals, the choice to start a family could not only effect their remuneration, it could also mean the difference between being promoted to Partner or Managerial level or not.

Portia White, Laurence Simons Director of UK and Ireland Private Practice comments: “The topic of maternity and paternity leave remains a highly contentious issue within the legal field and it is likely that this will remain the case for years to come. We have seen contrasting situations within law firms; with some offering statutory pay, others offering above and beyond statutory pay and some even implementing new initiatives to retain staff”.

Lucinda Moule concludes: “Although the optimal age to start a family will vary for each individual and will very much depend on life circumstances, from a career perspective, it is important that legal professionals consider the career implications of starting a family”.