Research: Two thirds of lawyers say the job has failed to live up to expectations

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After the battle to secure training contracts and pupillages, anti-climax often awaits


The reality of being a solicitor or barrister isn’t as great as many students believe, according to new research.

Only a third of lawyers said that the job has lived up to their expectations, while 14% described being a member of the legal profession as a “world away” from what they had hoped.

Worse, 57% of the 800 members of the UK legal profession surveyed admitted that they wished they had chosen a different career path. Yet most felt it was too late to do something else, with only 7% having considered making a career change.

The study — by consumer website Money Magpie — also asked lawyers what attracted them to the profession. Perhaps slightly alarmingly at a time of stagnating junior solicitor pay and shrinking partnership prospects, a whopping 97% of respondents listed high salaries.

Other frequently-mentioned factors included the prospect of making a difference to society (which 49% of respondents cited), the pull of a “pressurised environment” (32%), TV legal dramas (23%) and status (21%).

It was also clear from the results how significant lawyers’ parents can be in determining their choice of career. 51% of respondents said their decision to enter the law was influenced by their parents, with almost one-in-three feeling pressurised to the point of having “no other choice”.

Commenting on the survey, Chris Stoakes, a former City lawyer and author if ‘Is Law for You?’, noted how students tend to sign up for law degrees without knowing much about what legal study involves.

“The law is a great profession but you have to know what it entails and be cut out for it,” he said. “A-level law is not a necessary pre-condition to studying law at university, so the majority of law students sign up to a three-year law degree without knowing if it’s really for them.”

Stoakes, who has done stints at Hogan Lovells and Freshfields, added that law is “less glamorous than people outside the industry generally tend to believe” and “requires long hours and resilience”.

However, Stoakes balanced that criticism with praise for the intellectually challenging nature of being a lawyer, the opportunities to “develop close relationships with colleagues and clients” and the plentiful salaries at the top firms.


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