Why are lawyers so unhappy?
According to a new survey by the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC), the number of lawyers who have quit their jobs due to concerns over compensation for injuries and other legal issues is increasing.
The findings from the second wave of the ALRC’s survey are based on interviews with nearly 1,000 people across Australia and the United States who have been a full-time employee of a law firm or law practice for more than three years.
The survey, conducted in April, revealed that 42 per cent of respondents were unhappy with their pay, with a significant drop from the 51 per cent who said they were unhappy in 2015.
The report also revealed that lawyers and other law practitioners felt they were unfairly treated by the Government’s pay package, with 41 per cent saying they felt that the Government did not respect them or their professional responsibilities.
“There are a lot of people out there who are working in law that feel like they’re being punished for doing their job,” said Alison Beresford, the former chair of the Legal Services Council of Australia (LSCA).
Ms Beresfield said it was important that lawyers, especially those with significant experience in the area, spoke up about their concerns and demanded that their concerns be heard.
“We’re working with our members in the law profession to make sure that we’re aware of what’s going on, what they’re saying and what we need to do,” she said.
The ALRC survey found that the percentage of lawyers surveyed who felt that they were paid well was highest among lawyers who were employed in the public sector.
Almost a third of those surveyed said they had been paid less than they were entitled to.
The Australian Bar Association said it is aware of the concerns and was working with its members and stakeholders to address them.
“The ALRB survey is an important step forward in the recognition that the profession is facing a number of challenges, including rising levels of inequality and inequality of outcomes,” said ACCA’s acting president and chief executive, Mark O’Brien.
“While there are improvements in the legal sector, there is still much to be done to ensure that people are not paid less for their work.”
Lawyers were also concerned about the fairness of compensation, with 31 per cent describing the system as unfair.
The new ALRC findings also found that nearly half of those who had worked for the firm for more that three years said they felt they had to ask their employer for compensation, but this did not always happen.
A further 15 per cent felt that their employer would not compensate them for any work done while they were working, while 8 per cent said they did not feel comfortable talking to their employer about their issues.
The latest report is based on a random sample of 1,003 interviews conducted from November 17 to November 19, 2018.
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