Having children “makes lawyers less optimistic about careers”

Glynn: Firms need to work to retain lawyers

Six in 10 lawyers feel “less optimistic” about their career prospects after having children, new research has found.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the feeling was much more common among female solicitors (52%) than their male colleagues (17%). Seven out of 10 lawyers reduced their hours as a result of having children – all of them female.

However, large majorities of both women (71%) and men (63%) said their law firm supported them well or very well as a working parent – no male solicitors said they were poorly supported.

Researchers from legal recruiters Realm Recruit surveyed 105 lawyers from its network, publishing the research alongside its Parenting in the Law guide.

The biggest challenges as a result of becoming a parent were identified as the school holidays (75%), ‘burnout/the mental load’ involved (71%) and the cost of childcare (71%).

The cost of living was also a significant challenge, followed by lack of flexibility (48%), lack of a family network (44%) and lack of homeworking (40%).

But less than 30% cited discrimination/lack of progression, a lack of paid leave to look after dependents or a non-family friendly culture.

Lawyers who wanted to become parents in the future were most concerned about the costs, as well as burnout.

Lack of flexibility was cited by more than a third (36%), including all the male solicitors in the survey, while a similar proportion was concerned about lack of homeworking.

However, three-quarters of lawyers (75%) said their law firms did offer homeworking to help with being a parent, much the most common approach, compared to reduced hours (50%).

Sarah Glynn, head of client experience at Realm Recruit, commented: “We understand the challenges long hours and punishing caseloads can pose for these individuals, and unfortunately, our research has confirmed that many are finding juggling having a family and maintaining a successful legal career difficult.

“While most working parents feel supported by their employer, this is not the case for everyone. There are steps law firms can do to better support these professionals and it makes good business sense to do so.”

She argued that, with the current “legal talent crisis” of few lawyers actively looking for a new role, there was an onus on firms to retain staff with favourable parental policies and “working to cultivate a supportive work environment and culture that embraces parenthood as a normal part of the profession”.

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