Salary ‘top factor’ for retaining lawyers, study reveals

Pay is once again the top factor for retaining and attracting lawyers with 56% saying it had triggered them to move firms, according to a new report.

As part of its annual market research conducted earlier this summer, Realm Recruit surveyed lawyers on topics including jobseeker status, progression, flexibility, culture and pay. 100% of respondents said the amount they earn was very or fairly important to them, in a list that also included length of commute, promotion opportunities and cultural fit.

Pay and the increased cost of living was also the top reason lawyers explored the jobs market last year, with 56% saying it had triggered them to move firms. 

Flexibility emerged as the second biggest priority, with 90% of lawyers saying it would be important to them if they were considering a new opportunity while 87% said the same about home working.  

Manageable caseloads and progression opportunities were also important with 79% and 77% saying they were a priority, respectively. 

Lawyers were also asked how active they were on the jobs market and the results revealed that the proportion actively seeking a new opportunity (ranging from lawyers who had set up an alert on a job board to lawyers who were in the throes of interviewing with prospective firms) has fallen for the third consecutive year to just 10% down from 15% in 2022 and 40% in 2019.  

Despite only 15% of the market identifying as active in 2022, 31% of those who took the survey had moved jobs in the last 12 months, demonstrating that passive or inactive lawyers can have their heads turned for the right opportunity.  

Realm Recruit has recently published the results of its salary research in full along with recommendations for law firms in its 2023/24 Annual Report: Attracting, Recruiting and Retaining in Today’s Legal Talent Market. 

The 338 survey respondents were based primarily across the North West of England, Yorkshire and the Midlands, and included solicitors of all levels of post-qualified experience as well as non-qualified lawyers. 

For the first time, the firm also spoke to law firms and grounded its findings in insight from key decision-makers and partners on how they are responding to the current legal talent market. 

Sarah Glynn, Associate Director and Head of Client Experience at Realm Recruit commented: 

“With the tightest talent market in years and the added pressure of the cost-of-living crisis, it’s harder than ever for law firms to attract and recruit the people that are going to help drive profitability. However, it’s clear that money is at the forefront of lawyers’ minds and paying properly (or at least in line with the market rate) is crucial. 

Aside from pay, assessing what makes their firm truly unique and developing an Employer Value Proposition (EVP) that is extremely attractive to the right legal professionals is one way in which law firms can be more proactive and less reactive to market pressures. That might involve assessing and improving the level of flexibility they offer, their progression frameworks or the size of their lawyers’ caseloads.  

The firms that are able to do this and then successfully communicate their EVP to the market will stand the best chance of capturing the interest of the lawyers they are looking for so that they can grow sustainably and be profitable.”  

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