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Where have all the lawyers gone?

As I sit here writing this I can see 3 former lawyers sat opposite me who have chosen to make a living not out of practicing law but helping lawyers find new jobs. I sat and looked at the long list of names of lawyers that I have assisted in finding new jobs over the last decade or so (I have been in legal recruitment for a while) and checked out solicitors on line to see of this list who was still with the firm I placed them with. To my surprise not only were a number of them not with the firm I introduced them to (quite a few were I hasten to add), but a larger proportion were no longer in practice. It was pleasant to see that a number of newly qualified solicitors I assisted years ago in securing their first position are now partners but the proportion that have left the law completely surprised me. A little naive perhaps? After all a lot of the lawyers we assist in finding a new role don’t actually enjoy what they do and hope that by moving jobs they solve the problem. This works for some but not all because fundamentally they have become disillusioned with their chosen career.

It got me thinking (easy now, it hurts a little) about all the unfilled solicitor vacancies across the UK. It’s a huge number! Within real estate alone in Birmingham city centre there are 60 or so live solicitor vacancies, 80% of which require 3 years’ plus PQE. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that if the legal profession could hold onto to more of its disgruntled members, perhaps there wouldn’t be such a skill shortage and the legal industry could be turning over even more money. The demand for legal services is increasing, the thing holding most firms back is their inability to recruit additional solicitors.

So where is the disconnect between the law and the lawyer? I don’t think it’s at graduate level as there are enough people choosing to read law at university but of this number how many go on to take their LPC? Once the LPC is secured, how many then go on to secure training contracts? Not enough in my opinion. But whose fault is this? Trainee retention rates are very good across the UK, so with all the demand for additional legal services why aren’t law firms doubling the number of training contracts? There certainly isn’t a shortage of applicants! If we could calculate how many lawyers fall out of love with law each year and leave to become teachers, doctors, legal recruitment consultants, ski reps or work on a cruise ship (I kid you not) then perhaps this would help law firms calculate how many training contracts should be offered each year.

Not every lawyer wants to become a partner and falling out of love with the law is inevitable for a lot of people. So why don’t the great legal minds in this country look at the numbers and reasons and plan for the future? Because they are too busy working too hard because they can’t recruit anybody to help deal with increasing work loads!

For more information please contact James Brewster or visit our website BCL Legal.

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