New Attorneys

BigLaw is losing its appeal, new survey of Gen Z lawyers and law students says

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In the long term, a majority of Generation Z attorneys and law students plan on eschewing a traditional BigLaw career path for in-house, government or nonprofit work, according to a new survey by legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa released Wednesday, and they value work-life balance and flexibility in the workplace.

While 70% of respondents surveyed for the report entitled, Gen Z: Now Influencing Today’s Law Firm Culture, said they would pursue employment at a law firm, just 39% said they would like to work for an Am Law 200 firm, down from 59% in Major, Lindsey & Africa’s 2020 survey report. In addition, 53% said in the long term, they would rather work in-house, in government or at a nonprofit, according to the report, which surveyed 250 law students and lawyers between January and March 2023.

The survey had a “particular focus” on people attending the top 100 law schools as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, according to the recruiting firm. Although 91% of answers came from U.S. residents, respondents were also based in Croatia, Chile, Germany, the United Kingdom, Qatar and Malaysia.

Jacqueline Bokser LeFebvre, managing director in the associate practice group of Major, Lindsey & Africa and co-author of the report, says the survey suggests that “the interest in law firms as a whole seems to be declining amongst this generation,” and that a desire for work-life balance is driving the changes.

LeFebvre says many younger lawyers and law students likely see firms as a short-term option to help set themselves up financially and get good training.

“It’s not a path they want to pursue long term because they’re not willing to make the trade off, from a work-life balance standpoint,” LeFebvre says.

According to the report, “there are perceptions among Gen Z respondents that in-house opportunities and government positions offer a better work-life balance than do law firms.” Law students surveyed were also motivated to work at nonprofits or in government jobs for altruistic reasons and because they want to do meaningful work, the report suggests.

“Only 23% of Gen Z survey participants seek to pursue law firm partnership as a long-term career goal; this percentage speaks to the challenges associated with retaining talent and high attrition at law firms,” according to the report.

The survey suggests that firms could keep younger lawyers by providing opportunities for advancement and the “highest market” salary. Frequently working long hours and late nights and weekends are among the top reasons that they would leave, along with working somewhere that is not aligned with their interests, goals and values.

“Gen Z has been characterized as a generation whose members are motivated deeply by their intrinsic values and seek work that aligns with these values. Offering more pro bono work that aligns with Gen Z’s social and moral values could curb attrition related to this factor,” according to the report.

In addition, the survey found that respondents would trade a portion of their compensation for more time off (62%), a flexible work schedule (60%), student loan assistance (44%), and a reduction in billable hours (41%).

While 69% of respondents agreed that the legal industry is “changing for the better,” 79% also agreed that sexism remained a problem.

A majority, or 60%, did not agree with the statement that “law firm corporate social responsibility programs are authentic and valued.” In addition, 63% of respondents said social justice initiatives are “very important” or “somewhat important” as they decide on who they want to work for.

See also: “How young attorneys are shaking up law firm culture”

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