Half of UK corporate lawyers expect to leave their job within two years, report finds

Axiom Law research shows many are considering joining an ALSP


Almost half of corporate lawyers in the UK are actively looking for a new position as attitudes towards traditional work models in the legal profession continue to shift, according to research by legal services provider Axiom Law. 

The New Life in the Law study also revealed a majority of corporate lawyers in the UK are showing more interest in alternative career paths especially given the growing popularity of alternative legal service providers (ALSP) in the global legal industry. 

Some 48% of the 150 surveyed corporate lawyers working in private practice and in-house said they were actively looking for new career opportunities, while a further 51% said they plan to exit their current role in the next couple years, the report found. 

Daniel Hayter, vice president and managing director of Axiom in Europe, said the survey results indicate lawyers are more than ready for a change in the status quo. 

“While some of the shifts have been exacerbated by the pandemic, the overall trend is consistent with what we’ve witnessed in the legal services marketplace for a long time: a growing desire among legal professionals to gain more control and autonomy over their careers and build personalised paths that align to their interests and individual aspirations,” he said.  

Many of these lawyers are turning towards ALSPs in their career searches, with 72% of respondents saying they are considering joining a flexible legal talent provider, according to the report. 

With respect to this, the report also identified that lawyers are not looking to ‘downshift’ by taking jobs that do not offer similar material rewards to traditional legal career paths.

A growing interest in joining an ALSP reflects ‘an important acknowledgment that these providers can meet those requirements, while also offering a steady stream of rewarding, diverse and challenging work with leading clients,’ the report said. 

Last year, a report released by Thomson Reuters in partnership with Georgetown Law and Saïd Business School found the ALSP market in the US had ‘reached a point of maturity’, with 79% of law firms and 71% of in-house teams now engaging ALSPs for legal work compared to 51% and 61% respectively in 2016.

In the UK, meanwhile, the Big Four accounting firms have also been increasing their reach in the ALSP market by scaling their legal arms with a higher integration of technology, project management and process management, resulting in business models that more closely resemble flexible providers than traditional law firms. 

Sara Morgan, senior vice president of legal talent at Axiom, said flexible talent providers lie at the intersection of the “critical shifts” taking place within the legal industry and respond to how lawyers want to work and how clients want to procure legal services. 

“Everyone knows that the legal profession is changing by embracing digital transformation and adopting techniques from other sectors such as agile working. It’s happening as part of a wider effort to align with changing client-side demand for increased focus, flexibility, responsiveness and proof that legal services deliver quantifiable value,” she said.  

The report indicated the mass shift in attitude towards traditional work models may have been brought on in part by the unexpected popularity of remote working, as many lawyers ‘realised that they can be just as effective working remotely as they can in person’. 

Many top law firms, including Clifford Chance, Squire Patton Boggs and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, implemented office and home working splits for lawyers and staff last year. Since then, the opportunity to choose where to work has grown into something firms can leverage in the ongoing war for junior talent. 

With the job market as buoyant as ever, law firms both the UK and US have been throwing money at their lawyers in a bid to get them to keep their jobs – a trend that appeared to have slowed in January before Davis Polk & Wardwell upped the ante again stateside by offering associates between $215,000 to $396,500 depending on seniority. 

Slaughter and May turned up the heat this month by hiking associate salaries by up to 20% following a review into pay and benefits for non-partners. The pay rises impact all post-qualification experience (PQE) levels, with newly qualified (NQ) lawyers seeing their rate increase next month to £115,000 from £107,500. Freshfields also bumped up its NQ rates by 25% this month, taking salaries for new lawyers to £125,000. 



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