Well paid but undervalued and overworked: The highs and lows of being a junior lawyer in a leading law firm

Ingo Forstenlechner, Fiona Lettice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to determine what motivates junior lawyers to join a “Top 5” law firm, to understand their job and career expectations and whether or not these are being met during their employment in the firm.

Design/methodology/approach: A survey was delivered to 300 lawyers, out of which 144 valid responses were collected. For the analysis, responses were clustered to identify emerging themes. Interviews were also conducted with randomly selected junior lawyers to clarify emerging topics and deepen understanding of the issues raised.

Findings: Key motives for young lawyers to join a law firm were money and improved career options. These expectations were generally met. However, once working, these lawyers were disappointed by a lack of interaction with and appreciation from partners, high pressure to bill more, long working hours and poor work/life balance, a lack of interesting work, and a lack of international secondments.

Research limitations/implications: The research reported in this paper is based on a case study of one of the top five law firms in the world, which is considered to be a leader in many areas of law practice. It cannot be assumed to be representative of the culture, policies and practices of many other firms operating in this sector.

Practical implications: The findings have been used within the case study organisation to improve junior lawyer motivation and could also be used by comparable organisations to improve the retention of junior lawyers.

Originality/value: The main contribution of this paper is the insight gained into the job and career motivations and expectations of junior lawyers. Additional insight is gained by exploring expectations prior to joining the firm and which of these could be fulfilled and which were disappointed during employment with the firm.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-652
Number of pages13
JournalEmployee Relations
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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