- Roughly 78% of in-house lawyers feel stressed or burned out in their roles and 57% are open to finding new jobs, according to a study from the legal talent provider Axiom.
- Nearly half of the 300 in-house lawyers surveyed reported being very or extremely stressed or burned out, with 69% of those respondents saying they were likely to look for a new job within the next year. Overall, 14% of in-house counsel are searching for new jobs, Axiom’s The View from Inside report found.
- In-house counsel would almost equally consider a law firm (40%) or a flexible talent provider (39%) for their next position, while 34% would consider another in-house position, the report said. “In-house lawyers ... want change,” said Sara Morgan, Axiom’s global head of legal talent. “And that often comes in the form of who they work for.”
Increased workloads and the added complexity of legal work, combined with reduced legal department bandwidth, have contributed to the stress and burnout among in-house lawyers, according to Axiom.
Along those lines, 99% of in-house attorneys reported that both the volume of legal matters with which they are dealing, as well as the complexity of those matters, have increased considerably over the past few years.
Meanwhile, nearly 90% said that their legal department is already suffering from attrition-related issues. Of those respondents, 9 in 10 said they are looking for a new job in the next one to two years.
“This indicates attrition will continue to worsen as lawyers who work for legal departments facing attrition consider getting out before it gets worse,” the report said.
Morgan said these statistics reflect the need for flexible legal talent providers like Axiom, which can provide on-demand support for short-staffed legal departments that also are facing cost pressures.
“They need more lawyers who are able to bring elasticity into their teams in order to allow their own lawyers to be more engaged and satisfied in their day jobs,” she said.
About 42% of in-house counsel are somewhat satisfied or less with their current position, and only 16% are completely satisfied with their current position, the Axiom report said.
The Great Reflection
Wakefield Research conducted the online survey for Axiom with 300 U.S. in-house counsel working at organizations with a minimum annual revenue of $1 million between May 23 and June 3.
Of those surveyed, 93% said the COVID-19 pandemic had caused them to reassess their career priorities.
Work/life balance and mental health resources were the top two areas lawyers reported as being more important now than in the past.
Morgan said these statistics were one reason Axiom likes to use the phrase “The Great Reflection” when referring to developments in the talent market during the pandemic.
“If you're an individual, you're not really thinking, ‘I want to exit the law,’” Morgan said. “But you're rather reflecting: ‘How do I work? Where do I work? Why do I work? What kind of work do I want? What kind of work-life balance do I want?’”
Enhanced interest in talent platforms
Morgan said she was encouraged by the statistics indicating strong interest from in-house counsel in moving to positions with flexible legal talent providers such as Axiom.
Overall, 97% of those surveyed expressed some level of interest in joining a flexible talent provider, with 62% saying the COVID-19 pandemic has enhanced that interest.
A primary reason flexible talent providers have become more attractive to attorneys, Morgan said, is because they give attorneys the opportunity to choose how much or how little they want to work. This level of flexibility typically produces improved work-balance, she said.
The Axiom report also highlighted that a high percentage of in-house lawyers find their work unengaging (34%) because of repetitive tasks (43%) and being siloed into one niche area or specialization (39%).
By contrast, Morgan highlighted that flexible talent providers such as Axiom provide lawyers the chance to work with a mix of clients and perform different types of legal work.
“You may go and do one engagement at a startup, and another engagement at a large organization,” she said. “You get to pick and choose and just get variety around your career.”
Additionally, Morgan said the findings in the report align with the surge of interest Axiom has seen from applicants seeking to join its platform. The platform hired roughly 1,000 lawyers last year, which was a record, and is on pace to hire 1,100 in 2022.