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ANALYSIS: Survey Finds Why Some Lawyers Are on the Job Hunt

Sept. 20, 2021, 9:00 AM

One lawyer in 10 is actively seeking outside job opportunities, according to newly completed results from Bloomberg Law’s Attorney Workload & Hours Survey. And the toll that negative work experiences are taking on these attorneys’ well-being appears to be a big part of their decision to move.

Another 38% of the survey’s respondents say they are open to offers outside of their current employer but not actively job-seeking, while just over half (52%) report that they are not looking to switch jobs.

Bloomberg Law asked 649 attorneys in July and August about their experiences working as a lawyer during the second quarter of 2021. In this third quarterly iteration of the survey, lawyers were asked new questions about their job status, the challenges they’re facing at work, and reasons they might want to leave their current job.

What’s causing the active seekers to be so … active in their job-seeking? Compared with lawyers who say they are not looking to move, this group reports longer workweeks on average (54.2 hours to 51.4 hours), markedly lower job satisfaction scores (a 3.3 average on a 0–10 scale, as opposed to to a 7.2 average), and much higher rates of burnout (66% of the time, compared to 37% of the time).

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Active job-seekers also report experiencing a variety of work challenges at a higher rate than other groups. For example, more than 80% of active job-seekers are faced with the inability to disconnect from work, and nearly three-quarters (72%) are struggling with a heavier workload, according to the survey results. That’s almost 20 percentage points higher than those who are staying put.

Active job-seekers also report experiencing well-being challenges in the workplace more frequently. Toxic workplace environments are reported eight times more often among active seekers than among those not looking to move (56% and 7%, respectively). Active seekers most frequently report high work stress as a challenge to their well-being (84%), followed by lack of work-life balance (73%)—and again, both percentages are much higher than for non-seekers. Most active job-seeking attorneys also report experiencing a lack of support from leadership (68%) and a lack of appreciation (68%), which, along with the experience of a toxic workplace environment, all pose risks to maintaining or increasing personal well-being.

Workplace and well-being challenges are also impacting respondents’ personal lives, as rates of anxiety (85%) and depression (50%) are much higher among those who are actively seeking jobs than those who are not looking to move.

So, what exactly are active job-seekers hoping to change in their next role? More than two-thirds of active job-seekers cite finding a better work environment as a reason they plan to leave their organization. Job-seeking attorneys are also in search of a role that offers better work-life balance (61%) and reduced work stress (60%).

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The rise of the Delta variant has upended ‘return-to-office’ plans for many companies. How does this affect you? In the next Attorney Workload and Hours Survey, starting in early October, Bloomberg Law will continue to track metrics such as average hours, satisfaction, well-being and burnout for Q3 to see whether there are any shifts as we arrive at the latter half of the year.

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Related content that is free for all can be found on our In Focus: Lawyer Well-Being page.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our Surveys, Reports, & Data Analysis page.

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