It may seem like a glamorous career choice, but only a third of lawyers agree that their job has lived up to their expectations – according to new research.
The majority of legal professionals say they entered the profession in the hope of earning high salaries, early retirement, or simply for the cachet of calling themselves a ‘lawyer’.
Others were drawn by the prospect of “improving society”, for the “courtroom drama” or because they were inspired by TV shows like Suits and Silks.
But over half now admit that they wished they had chosen a different career path, research by consumer website Money Magpie has found.
In a survey that polled over 800 practising lawyers and students about their decision to enter the profession, only 35 per cent said that their job or legal training matched their expectations.
More than one in eight said the reality of the career was a ‘world away’ from what they’d expected – yet fewer than one in ten say they have considered making a change.
The findings show that legal students and trainees need to be clearer about why they are entering the profession, according to Christopher Stoakes, a former City lawyer and author of Is Law For You?
He said: “The law is a great profession but you have to know what it entails and be cut out for it.
“A-level law is not a necessary pre-condition to studying law at university, so the majority of law students sign up to a three-year law degree without knowing if it’s really for them.
“They often get wrapped up in the allure of the legal profession as portrayed in TV and films, and before they know they’re drawn into a legal career without much further thought.”
When asked to list what most attracted them to the industry, almost all (97 per cent) admitted that high salaries were a major factor.
The prospect of “making a difference” or being able to “improve society” attracted 49 per cent of the vote, whilst a “pressurised environment” came in third with 32 per cent.
Some 23 per cent listed TV programmes like Suits as inspiration, with courtroom drama and “kudos” accounting for nine per cent and 21 per cent respectively.
Parental pressure may also have something to do with it.
Only 13 per cent of those questioned dreamed about working in the legal profession as a youngster.
But just over half (51 per cent) of respondents said their decision to enter the profession was influenced by parents, with almost one-in-three feeling pressurised to the point of having ‘no other choice’.
Just over a third (35 per cent) said the profession or their studies was ‘exactly what I expected and hoped for’.
The remainder said it did not live up to their initial expectations, 14 per cent of which admitting the reality is a “world away”.
But despite the difference between expectation and reality – with 57 per cent saying they wish they had chosen another career path – only seven per cent said that had considered making a career change.
“The reality of a legal career is less glamorous than people outside the industry generally tend to believe,’ said Stoakes.
“It is highly demanding and requires long hours and resilience, so it’s not for everyone.
“But on the plus side, it is intellectually challenging, you develop close relationships with colleagues and clients and it can be well paid.
‘The most important thing when considering a career in the law is to be clear about your motives.”
Jasmine Birtles, consumer pundit and founder of MoneyMagpie.com, added: “Our readers are interested in making money and the legal sector, with its promise of a hefty pay packet, seems a very attractive career choice.
“But this research shows that you should think very carefully about entering the profession unless you’re willing to go into it for the long-term.”