Show me the money: Financialisation #101

The Lawyer have done a very interesting survey on lawyer salaries with a very large response (6,000+).  The results on apparent gender disparities  are particularly interesting.  In this context it can be regarded as useful light being shone on the practices of law firms, but in another light it can regarded as part of the ‘judge me by what I earn’ culture which is an (increasingly?) damaging part of the culture of legal practice.  I’m not sure an awful lot can or should be done to resist the spread of such information: and after all there are benefits on top of publicity for the gender issue if one sees partners as appropriating more of the associates value than they deserve (I’m agnostic on that: more information may help the market decide though I suppose).  It is worth saying also why not add data on class and ethnicity?  Perhaps these things are in the fuller survey.

It’s worth thinking too though about the drawbacks.  Research in the US has suggested that lawyers who case success in predominantly financial terms are less happy (or more more depressed depending on what emphasis you wish to take), and other research emphasises the negative impact of the financial framing of work on ethics.

As the Lawyers’ partners (Kinsella Legal, recruitment consultants) in the survey note:

As the UK economy continues to grow, today’s lawyers have never been so sought after, driven by the current war for talent.

Let’s hope this is not a war fought purely in terms of salaries, bonuses and profit share.   It’s interesting to note that the Lawyer survey seems to record data on some analagous issues to the US concerns. There’s some reporting of the results on stress here. There is also data on satisfaction with pay rises and apparently data on broader career satisfaction and aspirations although disappointingly I could not see this reported.  I may have missed it.  It would be good to see a thorough analysis of satisfaction and its drivers if that is possible to compare with the US work and to inform debate which is essentially about the quality of management and about career choices.

By all means show us the money but let us also take a harder look at the other things that make work rewarding (or not).  Happiness and professionalism depend upon it.

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About Richard Moorhead

Director of the Centre for Ethics and Law and Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at the Faculty of Laws, University College London with an interest in teaching and research on the legal ethics, the professions, legal aid, access to justice and the courts.
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