New IBA report reveals significant numbers of young lawyers want to leave their current job

Monday 31 January 2022

A new report from the International Bar Association (IBA) has revealed that of 3,000 young lawyers – defined as aged 40 and under – surveyed around the world, a significant number of them are either leaving or considering leaving their current job in the next five years. Fifty-four per cent of survey respondents reported that they were ‘somewhat likely’ or ‘highly likely’ to move to a new workplace, 33 per cent wanted to switch to a different area of the legal profession and 20 per cent were thinking about leaving the profession entirely. Click here to read the report.

The IBA Young Lawyers’ Report is based on the results of an international survey carried out by the IBA’s Young Lawyers’ Committee (YLC) and Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU) in collaboration with market research company Acritas (part of Thomson Reuters). The research was undertaken to identify young lawyers’ priorities, interests, and concerns around their jobs and future career plans; whether any such concerns are being adequately addressed by employers; the reasons behind the attrition rates of young lawyers; what factors have contributed/are contributing to the reasons for departure; and what changes should be made to improve working conditions (where necessary).

In one of the report’s two Forewords, IBA President Sternford Moyo, Chairman and Senior Partner of law firm Scanlen and Holderness, commented: ‘The young lawyers of today are the senior leaders of tomorrow, so understanding their concerns today will help to shape the profession for the future. Relevant across the globe, this research should be carefully considered with action in mind.’

Co-Chairs of the IBA’s YLC, Marco Monaco Sorge and Marie Caroline Brasseur, wrote in the report’s second Foreword: ‘High turnover of young lawyers can cause problems on many levels, including the disruption of productivity and damage to client relationships. By understanding what drives young lawyers and by building a culture of support and engagement, legal institutions will benefit from an inspired and motivated workforce. This report will be a very useful tool for law firms and businesses in planning the management and retention of their talent.’

Further respondents’ survey responses included in the 54-page report demonstrate:

  • A lack of work-life balance is a concern for more than 60 per cent of young lawyers. This concern was the greatest for lawyers in the age bracket of 25 and under, at 71 per cent. Sixty-six per cent of female lawyers and 68 per cent of solicitors also find work-life balance a concern;
  • Solicitors are more likely to cite work-life balance and mental health issues than their in-house counterparts;
  • Nine out of ten young lawyers reported experiencing barriers to their career progression, such as balancing commitments, insufficient mentorship and a lack of promotion opportunities;
  • The failure to address toxic workplace cultures as a concern: for 27 per cent of male respondents rising to 43 per cent amongst female respondents, with 44 per cent of the 25 and under age group compared to 28 per cent of the 36–40 age group;
  • Salary as the most-cited factor pushing young lawyers out of their current roles. Paradoxically, across all regions, salary is also the biggest factor responsible for drawing young lawyers towards a new legal role;
  • That flexible working is key to the long-term continuity of the profession for 54 per cent; and that
  • Artificial intelligence and legal technology training is viewed as critical for their future by 40 per cent of respondents.

Four key headings in the report comprise: What is happening in the legal sector?; The future of the legal profession; Young lawyers and Covid-19; and Regional results for Africa, Arab, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin American and North America. Sub-headings indicate the scope of the research, tracing the aspirations and start of young lawyers’ careers to the present day. These include: Young lawyers’ academic background and attraction to the profession; Current career changes in the legal sector; Young lawyers leaving their current roles; What are the problems and why are young lawyers leaving?; What concerns young lawyers about their future?; Career opportunities and progression; and Diversity and inclusion.

To combat the exodus of young lawyers, the IBA outlines seven areas for action with the aim of creating a healthier and more fulfilling profession for all, from implementing and/or reviewing work-life balance related policies and initiatives, and acknowledging and addressing the mental wellbeing concerns of young lawyers, to keeping abreast of the latest developments in legal technology and training lawyers accordingly.

Moyo commented: ‘As future leaders, it is in the profession’s interest to identify what may be deterring our best young talent from progressing in their legal careers and the obstacles they encounter. Their experience and how their interests are managed in the workplace will undoubtedly not only affect their future at the workplace but the legal profession more generally.’


Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here to read the full report.
  2. The new report on young lawyers falls within the wider objective of the IBA of understanding the issues affecting global legal practitioners on a personal level, and not just as experts in their field of practice. In 2018, the organisation surveyed 7,000 lawyers on the topic of bullying and sexual harassment within the workplace, providing empirical confirmation that bullying and sexual harassment are rife within the global legal profession, particularly amongst the younger members of the profession. Meanwhile, according to the recent IBA report Mental Wellbeing in the Legal Profession: A Global Study, one in ten lawyer respondents aged under 30 have experienced suicidal thoughts as a result of work.
  3. The IBA’s Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU) undertakes research, and develops and implements innovative strategies, projects and initiatives that are relevant to business and the rule of law, the global legal profession and the broader global community.
  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
  5. Find the IBA(@IBAnews) and IBAHRI (@IBAHRI) on social media here:

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