The results are in: how do solicitors feel about their profession?
The legal landscape has faced significant change over the last three years. The impact of the pandemic, rising costs amidst the cost-of-living crisis, and political criticism of the profession has at times sought to damage the reputation of solicitors.
Despite these challenges, solicitors continue to play a vital role in serving society, supporting businesses across the country, and upholding the rule of law.
We are proud to be the professional body for solicitors. We have investigated the views of a wide cross-section of the profession, from those in private practice to the in-house community, from those at the start of their career to those nearing retirement.
The striking results can be read in full in our Practising Certificate Holder Survey.
The key findings include:
Rule of law and access to justice
Two-thirds of solicitors believe access to justice has worsened over the past 10 years, while court delays and the decline in legal aid availability were cited as key barriers to people accessing justice.
“We are hearing from those with first-hand experience of working in the legal sector that the fundamental right to access to justice has become more and more difficult to uphold over the last ten years,” said Law Society president Lubna Shuja.
“Consistent underfunding of the justice system in the 10 years since crushing legal aid cuts were introduced in 2013 means that people are all too often not able to get the support they need if they are unable to afford private legal fees. Over the past 10 years there has been a 41% decrease in magistrates’ court representation.”***
Commenting on the findings relating to the rule of law, Lubna Shuja added: “Solicitors’ perspectives on how government policy has weakened the UK’s rule of law are similarly damning. Our research shows that 61% of our members are concerned about the impact recent government policy (over the past two years) has had.”
Career satisfaction and wellbeing
Our research found that workplace satisfaction was up slightly since 2019.
Most respondents felt like their roles fully utilise their skills and abilities (77%), and feel well supported (67%) and kept informed about important organisational changes (63%) by their line manager.
However, there was a significant 30% increase in the share of members reporting that their work goes beyond their contracted hours and impacts on their personal life.
There has also been a 16% increase in the proportion of members who find it difficult to relax in their personal time because of work.
These stats differ by member segment
Workplace satisfaction is generally lower amongst those who work in the top 200 firms, with 83% regularly working over and above their contracted hours on a regular basis. 59% also found it difficult to relax in their personal time because of thinking about work.
Junior solicitors were more likely to agree they felt well supported by their immediate manager and that their job offers good prospects for career progression.
However, junior lawyers tend to find the work they do to be less meaningful compared with more senior solicitors, and feel less comfortable expressing themselves in the workplace.
In-house lawyers tend to have higher satisfaction ratings but have some concerns about career progression.
Although, those working in small firms are more likely to find their work meaningful, a higher proportion of SME solicitors reported finding it difficult to relax in their personal time because of thinking about work.
Stats also differ by demographic
Members from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds are less likely to feel that their job utilises their skills and abilities, and that work is distributed fairly across their teams.
Disabled solicitors have the same concerns, and relative to those from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds are even less likely to feel well-utilised and that work is allocated fairly.
Supporting local communities
Just under half of solicitors had undertaken pro bono work in the previous year, demonstrating the value solicitors bring to society overall and the impact they have within local communities.
Within private practice, the most common type of extra work undertaken is pro bono work, with just under half of respondents doing so.
Half of in-house lawyers surveyed are involved in diversity and inclusion work within their organisations.
Overall, around four in 10 lawyers have undertaken pro bono work in the last year.
*** Legal aid data obtained from Legal aid statistics quarterly
Thrive with your Law Society membership
The Law Society has championed the interests of solicitors for nearly 200 years. We are by your side providing support at every stage of your career, regardless of whether you are newly qualified, a general counsel or managing partner.
From business development and people management, to complying with regulations and embracing new technology, we have the tools to empower you to turbocharge your career and professional development.
- Connect with a community of partners, leaders and practice managers by joining our Leadership and Management Section
- Boost your career and personal development with Law Society Learning
- Protect your mental health and wellbeing by exploring our trusted resources for dealing with stress and challenging situations
Discover more about your membership of the Law Society and how we can support you throughout your career.