By DebbieH 19 Nov 2012 7 min read

Young lawyers no longer assume the partner route will shape their careers

The Law Society’s recent round table debate shone a light on the hopes and aspirations of the next generation of newly qualified lawyers coming through training. In an excellent write-up by editor in chief of the Gazette, Paul Rogerson, it’s very clear that these ‘young guns’ understand how dramatically the legal profession has evolved in the UK in recent years. Their thoughts on the shape of the law jobs market they’re entering made fascinating reading, well worth sharing.

The nine panelists included young lawyers from Clifford ChanceMTG Solicitors and Howell-Jones, and a post-LPC student seeking a training contract. One discussion point was the fact that what was once the ultimate goal of an ambitious lawyer – equity partnership – is not necessarily an option open to high flyers today, no matter how successful they prove to be in their field.

One participant spoke of the challenges faced today regarding such high level promotion, saying: “Outside, perhaps, the top 100 firms, the equity partnership model will die. External funding will replace it and outside that group, no one is safe. And with people living longer, the way upwards is hard anyway. Unless you are in a firm where there is a willingness to give up equity, you are forced to wait for someone to retire or die.’

The traditional partner route is no longer deemed the obvious way to progress in a UK law career, the article suggests, with one panelist saying: “Historically, if you were half-decent at your job within 10 years or so you could expect to make partner. It doesn’t work like that anymore. There is more pressure on you and there are more career options.”

Those options include working in-house where less intense pressure to work long hours makes an attractive alternative for those seeking a better work life balance. The discussion also focused on alternative career paths with the majority of the junior lawyers at the roundtable discussion said they felt under-informed about alternative careers. The Law Society’s senior relationship manager, Jemma Ralph said there was a general lack of understanding in the profession about the value of lawyers’ skills. “The skills instilled by being a lawyer can open so many doors,” she told the Law Gazette panel. “I know a 10-year-call criminal defence barrister who has just become vice-president of a finance house in the City. He said that we don’t give ourselves enough credit for the skills we have.” The message was that lawyers do not realise what they have to give in areas such as HR, finance, and business leadership. “You don’t have to be pigeonholed,” said Ralph. It’s encouraging to hear that for those who have paid a handsome sum for legal training, there are plenty of career directions in which to go, if Plan A isn’t forthcoming.

Browse our law jobs today for more inspiration on your career options.