Why Good Lawyers Leave—and How to Keep Them

According to the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the 100 Best Jobs of 2022, practicing law is currently the ninth-best job in the U.S. Those rankings balance lawyers’ low unemployment rate and relatively high median salaries against a high level of stress and low flexibility and work-life balance.

There’s no doubt that practicing law remains a solid career choice. There’s an aspect of legal practice to suit nearly any hard worker with an analytical mind, and there’s always something new to learn within a chosen practice area. Representing clients can be enormously satisfying and personally rewarding.

But it’s not all positive. The legal industry has been losing talent for years, well before the Great Resignation of 2021. So, why do good lawyers leave, and what can law firms do to keep them around?

Some Lawyers Leave Because Practicing Law Is Hard

According to a 2014 report from the American Bar Association, one quarter of lawyers left the practice of law within 12 years of passing the bar exam. We’re not talking about lawyers who switch firms or move from a law firm to an in-house role; we’re talking about people who found a different career after investing thousands of hours (and thousands of dollars) in the law.

There are three major reasons why the law can be a brutal career. First, whether you’re helping a corporation navigate a merger or acquisition, negotiating a contract, or defending someone accused of a serious crime, the stakes are significant. Those high stakes translate to high stress.

Second, mistakes in the practice of law can be devastating. Fail to make an objection when an opponent introduces a hearsay statement in trial? Forget about ever winning that argument on appeal. Miss a filing deadline? There goes your case. The standard in practicing law is nothing short of perfection—because perfection is what it takes to be successful in an unforgiving justice system.

Finally, the work of being a lawyer is unending. Expect long hours and late nights, neither of which will excuse a lack of attention to detail.

All of that would be bad enough—but there’s more.

Some Lawyers Leave Because Their Law Firms Make Practicing Law Even Harder

The practice of law is itself difficult, and necessarily so. But some law firms make a hard job harder.

Historically, the people who advance to leadership roles at law firms aren’t the best managers, the best mentors, or the best business leaders. They’re the best lawyers. And they’ve advanced to the top because they’ve already survived the gauntlet that younger associates are now running through, so they’re not always sympathetic to complaints.

That can translate to poor management, excessive demands, nonexistent work-life balance, and a haphazard pipeline for attorney growth and development. It’s also a fact of legal practice that junior associates aren’t usually assigned client-facing work that’s engaging, challenging, and meaningful. There’s a certain amount of behind-the-scenes grunt work that just has to be done, and that work trickles down to the newest associates. It can be profoundly unsexy, unexciting, unrewarding work.

These types of challenging cultural dilemmas can’t be changed overnight. But there’s another way that law firms often make the practice of law unnecessarily difficult—and this one is easier to fix.

Keep Good Lawyers by Respecting Their Time With Automation Technology

At most law firms, there are nonbillable tasks that everyone has to do, regardless of rank, position, or power. No one is exempt from administrative tasks like filing emails and tracking time. Lawyers at every level find themselves working late into the evening not on interesting legal issues but on reconstructing their day so they can fill out their timesheet.

These are important tasks, to be sure. But if we have smart technology that can monitor your supply of ice cream and add Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie to your shopping list when you’re running low, why don’t we have technology that monitors your working activities and fills out your timesheet for you?

We do.

ZERO builds automation tools that use sophisticated artificial intelligence to streamline and simplify administrative tasks like time capture and email filing. ZERO’s time capture technology automatically tracks time and creates billing narratives, so every minute of billable work is promptly captured and accurately catalogued. And our email filing solution intelligently discerns client, matter, and task information to suggest the appropriate filing destination for each email and attachment.

That means lawyers can finish their work earlier and reclaim their time for more interesting, engaging work—or have more time for their families, their hobbies, and themselves.

Firms that adopt tools like these demonstrate to their legal professionals that they value and respect their time—which makes it easier to tolerate the challenging aspects of practicing law.

Contact us to learn more.

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