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Up or Out? Er…Out Please

In conjunction with ALPMA McLeod Duminy recently hosted seminars for law firms in Christchurch and Auckland. Based on the results of this year’s ALPMA Survey we chose the topics ‘Pro-active Recruitment’ and ‘Gender Diversity’. With only an hour and half to commit to it we certainly didn’t cover the half of either topic, but interestingly both topics threw up the same issue. Namely that the current structure and career development path within law firms needs to be reassessed.

For the most part law firms have effectively an ‘up or out’ pathway. You are either heading for partnership or well…there is no alternative. It is clear the ambitions and expectations of those within the profession are changing and the challenges, responsibilities and pressures of modern partnership are not attractive. As time becomes our most valuable commodity, many do not see themselves making the professional commitments necessary to climb to reach those dizzy heights.

This is a problem for recruitment, even more so for gender diversity as more and more women (and increasingly men who value their family time) do not see a future within a law firm. Hence the number of lawyers looking to move in-house, into government or out of law entirely. It isn’t a new problem – it was talked about when I was still considering my career in law back in London – but with a newer generation not prone to compromising their work life balance, and so many other professions giving more flexibility, it is about to become an acute problem.