The Impact of Great Resignation on Law Firms

An article by Italia Oggi analyses the influence of Great Resignation on the legal profession, i.e. the increase in the number of employee resignations that have occurred in recent years, especially among the younger population. A global research by Wolters Kluwer demonstrate the phenomenon importance: during the past year 86% of corporate legal offices and 70% of law firms had to deal with it. On the Italian scene, the Report on the Italian Bar Association 2022, realized by Cassa Forense in collaboration with Censis, offers an overview, highlighting how about one-third of lawyers are considering leaving the activity.

The renewed importance of work-life balance

The reasons for resignations are many: excessive practice expenses, reduced financial returns, declining clientele, and the desire to change professions or retire. It is an important moment for companies, which are led to question how to avoid burnout, reduce quitting and ensure talent retention. In this context, it is clear that the firms’ prompt response to the pandemic, which has fostered the emergence of agile and remote working, must be matched by a general rethinking of how professional interaction takes place. It is, therefore, necessary to devise new systems of training, task assignment, monitoring, and evaluation, which are capable of adequately responding to the desire for professional growth of resources and, at the same time, effectively disseminate and enhance corporate culture.

Companies are now required to develop benefits packages that meet the needs of young people and to pay particular attention to the involvement of resources, transparent communication on the requirements and characteristics demanded of professionals, and the selection of talent aligned with the firm’s values. However, while this trend has become evident over the last two years, it must be recognized that a transformation of young people’s aspirations and vocations has occurred over the last decade. Indeed, from the work-centric vision typical of previous generations, there has been a shift to a mentality that places quality of life at the center of professional and personal fulfillment. This cultural change is particularly relevant for high-stress peaks professions, such as the legal activity.

According to Uberto Percivalle, a lawyer and partner at Andersen who is an expert in labor law, “respect, empathy, and transparency are essential for human capital to perform at its best, but they are far rarer than the conventions that speak of them.” That explains the research findings on Great Resignation: “just as a talent will turn its back on an organization that does not keep up with the cutting edge of technology, it will a fortiori steer clear of an environment that has only superficially embraced buzzwords such as diversity and solidarity, but which, underneath, continues to practice greed and abuse.” That is why many firms have set up diversity and inclusion desks, which promote internal discussions and debates involving younger colleagues in the dialogue about the firms’ values.