Partners less happy than trainees, research suggests

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By William Holmes on


It would appear money doesn’t buy happiness

Over two thirds of trainee lawyers in the UK are happy at work compared to just 53% of partners, research commissioned by City firm Simmons & Simmons reveals.

Two fifths of partners who participated in the research said they would only stay with their firm for two to five years.

The research, which surveyed over 1,600 people across the globe working in the legal sector, highlights a disparity in the levels of happiness at work between different age groups. A whopping 90% of Gen Z respondents working in the legal sector were happy in their roles compared to just 66% of those over the age of 45.

Priorities appear to differ greatly between levels of seniority indicating that trainees are less enamoured with large paydays than partners. In the UK, 80% of trainees surveyed said they would rather work for a firm that provides a supportive and inclusive environment than one that pays very high salaries. Only 63% of partners could say the same. Trainees in the UK were the group most dissatisfied with their work-life balance.

The research also demonstrates how the size of a firm’s revenue and headcount can impact its employees’ happiness. Firms with revenues over £1 billion saw only 30% of their employees happy at work in stark contrast to firms with revenues of between £500 and £999.99 million where average happiness levels more than doubled to 65%.

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A firm’s headcount seems to have less of an impact. Sixty-five percent and 67% of employees at firms with between 1,500 and 1,990 employees and over 2,000 employees respectively, were happy compared to around 75% at smaller firms.

Firms headquartered in the US and the UK were on average the least happy firms. Forty-nine perecent of respondents from US firms said the pandemic had prompted them to rethink their careers compared to around a third of legal professionals in the UK.

Simmons & Simmons’ senior partner Julian Taylor stressed the “value in challenging misconceptions around age and attitudes to work”, adding that the report “reinforces what we already know, in that as much as salary is important for attaining quality of life, it’s far from the only factor in achieving professional happiness”.

Looking to the future, Taylor predicts that “the workplaces of the future will recognise this and place importance on encouraging their people to do more than simply work to live”.

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