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Junior lawyers’ biggest complaints: rubbish bonuses and poor partnership chances

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Survey of City and regional commercial firms reveals young solicitors still aspire to the big money

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A lack of worthwhile bonus schemes is the biggest complaint junior lawyers have with City law firms, research released yesterday revealed.

Inadequate, or non-existent, remuneration top-ups were cited as a significant problem by nearly 40% of respondents to a survey of more than 2,000 junior level solicitors at large Square Mile and global law firms.

That figure compared with only a third of young lawyers reporting they were satisfied with the bonus reward structures at their practices.

The research — conducted by online magazine Legal Week in association with leading employee survey specialist Best Companies Group — questioned lawyers at 16 top firms in the City and the regions.

Ranking after concerns about pay packet extras came the broader issue of general advancement in law firms. More than a fifth of young lawyers told the researchers they were dissatisfied with internal promotion and progression opportunities.

That figure coincided with a desire to join the partnership table being the biggest career aim of the young lawyers surveyed. Despite growing suggestions among legal profession watchers that the lure of partnership has lost its lustre, the researchers found that 42% of respondents said it was their biggest career aim.

Only 19% aspired to a senior role just below partnership, while 5% said they were perfectly happy being relatively lowly associates.

The survey produced another result that conflicts with other recent research. The Legal Week team found that slightly more than 40% of junior lawyers said the “intellectual challenge” of legal work was their most important motivator, with only 15% citing financial reward.

However, 97% of lawyers at all levels told a Money Magpie survey last March that the prospect of buckets of cash was their main reason for joining the legal profession.

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

Significantly more than half reported that they wished they had chosen a different career path.