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HomeNewsCorporate Legal Teams Expect Elevated Attrition, Despite High Job Satisfaction Levels

Corporate Legal Teams Expect Elevated Attrition, Despite High Job Satisfaction Levels

Satisfaction levels are the lowest among senior legal leaders and female attorneys

Despite high job satisfaction among 85% of in-house corporate legal professionals, nearly two-thirds (61%) indicate elevated attrition rates in the wake of COVID-19, according to Deloitte’s “2023 Legal Talent Survey.” Further, more than half of attorneys surveyed plan to leave their current employers for different legal positions within the next five years.

Regardless of experience level, in-house legal professionals say the factors that contribute most to their job satisfaction are access to the latest technologies and tools, as well as flexibility in how and where they work. At the same time, respondents note that providing effective training and development opportunities, and increasing employee well-being, are top challenges facing legal departments.

“High job satisfaction shouldn’t be a reason for organizations to rest on their laurels, especially when those satisfaction levels coexist with high attrition rates,” said Lori Lorenzo, managing director at Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP, and research and insights leader of Deloitte’s Chief Legal Officer Program. “While talent may be satisfied, there is still room for improving and elevating the talent experience, especially in highly specialized fields like the law, which can be incredibly nuanced across career level, gender and other factors. This is why getting a full read of the end-to-end employee experience is so important.”

Senior-titled legal leaders represent the highest attrition risk
Of all career levels, as many as 88% of senior-titled leaders expect to look for employment beyond their current companies, with most planning to join a different established private sector organization (43%), or a startup or early-stage company (28%), in the next five years.  

Attrition risks are lowest among junior-titled staff, with 42% reporting plans to remain with their current company in five years’ time. Many mid-level-titled legal staff also report plans to continue with their current employer (36%), with nearly one-quarter (24%) citing opportunities for career advancement as critical to job satisfaction.

“Today’s legal leaders need to engage in continuous learning to effectively navigate the demands of leading an effective legal function,” said Bob Taylor, managing director, Legal Business Services, Deloitte Tax LLP. “This can include staying abreast of the way legal service delivery is evolving, gaining a deeper understanding of growing business demands and drivers of change, and developing technical experience in emerging areas of law and risk. The net effect is that many senior legal professionals report plans to look elsewhere, presumably in part to acquire or have the opportunity to apply new skillsets in more progressive environments.”

Female attorneys report lower job satisfaction levels compared to male peers
Career stage aside, female attorneys report notably lower job satisfaction levels (76%) compared to their male peers (87%).

Some organizations are taking action to ameliorate gender disparities in legal careers, with more than three-quarters (76%) of respondents reporting their organization has devoted more effort and resources to DEI initiatives in the past year. Of polled legal professionals, 44% report that adoption of the Mansfield Rule a voluntary certification process which requires consideration of at least 30% women and attorneys of color for open leadership positions is their employer’s lead DEI strategy, an encouraging step forward considering the study also found that fewer women were promoted to top legal positions within their current organization (67%) compared to men (85%).

“Despite ongoing efforts and widespread commitment to bringing parity to the legal profession, correction of gender disparity and other forms of inequity remain stubbornly difficult obstacles to remove,” said Ben Campbell, general counsel, Deloitte LLP. “Organizations can make a difference by bringing a focus to and embedding DEI into the complete talent lifecycle from recruitment to onboarding, staffing, evaluation, compensation, and career progression and partnering with outside counsel and other legal service providers to do the same. Ultimately, these are important levers to pull to help level the playing field and, most importantly, create a more positive workplace environment for everyone.”