‘Toxic’ work culture deters three-quarters of lawyers from accepting job offers

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By Aishah Hussain on


41% wouldn’t even apply if a job had bad reviews, research shows

New research has revealed that nearly three-quarters (73%) of legal workers wouldn’t accept a job with a firm known to have a “toxic” work culture, compared to just over half (57%) of those in banking.

Two fifths (41%) of those in the legal industry said they wouldn’t apply for a job with a firm that had poor online reviews, let alone accept an offer, and nearly half of respondents (49%) said they’d leave a bad review online to warn prospective applicants about a firm’s poor work culture.

The research, carried out by software developer Culture Shift, found that 41% of the 100 or so legal professionals surveyed have witnessed bullying, harassment or discrimination at work, and more than half (55%) left a job owing to negative work culture.

“Toxic” work practices don’t just impact recruitment and a firm’s brand, the research shows they can also impact a firm’s bottom line. Two in three (62%) of consumers said they wouldn’t use a firm with a reputation for treating employees poorly.

“The true impact toxic workplace culture has on an organisation really shouldn’t be underestimated,” said Gemma McCall, chief executive of Culture Shift. “From influencing future applicants and investors, to affecting the lives of those experiencing and witnessing bullying, problematic behaviour in the workplace often has a lasting impact on both an organisation and its people.

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“The only way organisations can reduce this risk is to commit to eradicating problematic behaviour in the workplace by putting culture at the top of their agenda,” continued McCall. “There will never be a one-size-fits-all approach for all organisations to adhere to, however there are steps which all leaders can put in place to ensure they’re protecting their culture.”

Last month during Mental Health Awareness Week the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) together with lawyer wellbeing charity LawCare renewed calls for a change in culture across the legal profession.

“Report after report has demonstrated that the overall culture in law is damaging to many junior lawyers, leading to mental health problems such as burnout, depression, anxiety and (in the worst cases) self-harm and suicidal thoughts,” said Suzanna Eames, chair of the JLD.

Continuing, the Farrer & Co solicitor noted “over the course of the pandemic that the culture of a firm has a very large impact on employees’ mental health, and that positive leadership can have a real impact and can ensure that the legal profession is both fulfilling and sustainable”.

In January research by Culture Shift revealed that half of legal workers found their productivity levels hampered by toxic work culture and nearly two fifths (38%) felt less engaged as a result.

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