The great resignation and burnout of lawyers

Finding high caliber legal talent to be part of your law firm is always a challenge. Securing qualified attorneys to join your team requires you to devote significant time, money and resources to helping you find the right person for you. But even if you manage to hire some of the best lawyers available to join your firm, you still need to retain those lawyers for the long haul. Unfortunately, keeping your legal talent can be difficult, especially with lawyers working remotely.

But even if your firm has won the battle to attract great legal talent, will you be able to win the war against law firm attrition? Can you help your remote associates achieve the work-life balance they seek while maintaining a strong connection to the company?

Unfortunately, there is no simple formula for retaining your legal talent remotely. Ensuring that lawyers remain engaged members of your law firm requires creativity and expertise to meet their need for a satisfying professional-life exchange. This is especially true when they have a limited physical connection to the law firm, such as when working remotely.

What is the effect of The Great Resignation on the legal profession?

After the pandemic hit in 2020, employees began to re-examine how they lived their lives. Specifically, workers have started thinking about the balance between their professional and personal lives. As a result, many employees were dissatisfied with their lifestyle and took steps to restore their work-life balance by quitting their current jobs. This movement to achieve a balance between their work and their life outside of work became known as the “Great Resignation”.

This “Great Resignation” of 2021 did not spare the judicial community. Instead, it led to burnt-out, dissatisfied lawyers re-examining the culture of the law firm they worked in and taking steps to achieve a work-life balance they felt was acceptable.

This trend of resignations can also be seen as a “great awakening” and a wake-up call where lawyers realized their value to their firms. They felt that their companies had let them down and realized they had other options and better opportunities to deal with their lawyer’s burnout. As a result, these lawyers decided to rethink their priorities and how they wanted to live their lives and spend their time.

For these lawyers, this attempt to rebalance their lives often meant walking away from the law firms that hired them. But unfortunately, offering a raise was not enough to convince these lawyers to return to their jobs. And as a result, many law firms lost the talent they had worked so hard to find.

The Effect of Remote Work on Lawyer Burnout

Law firms can adapt to the needs of their lawyers working remotely; it just takes a willingness to use new methods to support their employees.

According to the 2022 State of the Legal Market Report, published by the Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at Georgetown University Law Center and the Thomson Reuters Institute, law firms globally have shown “surprising agility” during the pandemic when transitioning to remote working . The report further indicates that firm leaders agree that some combination of in-person and remote working will likely remain a part of law firm culture.

Firms must now retain this agility and adaptability to meet the needs of their lawyers in the long-term, or even permanent, remote workplace. Remote work frequently presents issues around fair job assignment, mentorship, reviews, fair career advancement, and maintaining company culture. These issues set the stage for burnout and an increased risk of attrition.

Simply increasing a remote lawyer’s salary is not enough to compensate for their disconnection and isolation from the work environment. Moreover, a pay rise will not level the playing field and compensate for lost opportunities of being excluded from the office environment. The post-“Great Resignation” advocate also values ​​appreciation, recognition, fairness, and mental well-being. While these may be intangible components, they are still essential for preventing burnout, minimizing attrition, and ensuring retention of legal talent.

The Great Resignation Taught Law Firms How to End Lawyer Burnout

The “Great Resignation” has provided law firms with the perfect opportunity to reflect and assess how they can adapt and change to retain their current top legal talent and attract new, high-level legal talent.

When looking at their remote workforce, law firms need to re-evaluate how they can strengthen the connection between the remote lawyer and the law firm. The remote lawyer must feel appreciated, recognized and treated fairly.

As the report indicates, law firms have adapted quite well to the need for a remote workforce. Now they need to extend that agility and flexibility to other areas of their practice with time-saving tools to facilitate billing, case management, fee collection, and client communications.

To better understand the impact of the Great Resignation on companies, watch our on-demand webcast “Stop the big quit” here.


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