The Great Reluctance Crossover
By Chere B. Estrin
Warning! For God’s sake, don’t show this article to your employer! That being said, (as if I had to), there has been no greater time to take advantage of a healthy job market where candidates firmly hold the upper hand – and probably will for some time to come.
If you haven’t peaked out from your current position to view what’s going on in the job market, it’s time. Never, in the umpteen years I have been in the legal field, have I seen such a crazy, positive, negative market. It just depends on what side you are on – candidate or employer.
Employees are in the midst of the Great Resignation. Truthfully, I don’t think that name aptly captures what’s going on. It’s more like The Great Re-shuffle or The Great Reluctance for those hesitating to move on. While employees are quitting in droves, they are not sitting idle. They still need to work. The problem is that employees are leaving the legal field for other opportunities or they are leaving their law firm jobs for more exciting, less stressful and better paying positions within other law firms. In all markets, there are more jobs than candidates causing unprecedented employer response.
It is no secret that wages have remained stagnant for too long. Covid pushed things to the breaking point where workers simply could not afford to continue being paid what they were. With workers leaving jobs in record numbers, many firms have realized they have no way to bring them back but to offer higher salaries, bonuses and more.
Additionally, generous hiring bonuses, retention bonuses, fantastic extra perks such as unlimited vacation, and counter-offers with exaggerated raises, all permeate this market. How long will this last? No one seems to really know but it is clear that at some point, the market will revert back to being an employer market, particularly if inflation crashes into a recession. You get the economics.
When I say “hiring bonuses”, I am not talking about attorneys who received these pre-COVID as SOP. I am talking about paralegals, legal assistants and many other legal professional positions. Unheard of pre-COVID. Prior to COVID, most major law firms took the attitude, “you should be honored to work here” as an enticement. That sure has gone out the window! Employers are even offering staffing organizations 5-30% more in fees in order to find them good candidates. Believe me, these staffing organizations did not demand it. It was manna from heaven. I have jr. attorneys right out of law school (still with pimples) get $50,000 bonuses. I have also experienced paralegals get as much as $20,000 along with a huge increase from their current salary.
What pushes employees to leave their jobs now? The market has simply changed. CNN citing Labor Department and other sources, reported recently that the decline in labor force participation is being fed almost exclusively by married people living with a spouse who left the labor force in the late summer of 2020 and did not return.
“This general profile itself gives us reason to believe that many of the missing workers will gradually transition back to work,” the report said. “This is supported by survey evidence from other sources suggesting that COVID-related considerations — such as infection risks, illnesses, and pandemic income supports — remain important contributors to ongoing participation hesitancy.”
After two years of remote working, legal professionals now expect more from their employers. More support, more flexibility, better technology, more resources, and fair compensation. Resignations happen all the time. Whether that’s now, last year or pre-COVID, people’s reasons to move remain the same – better support, salary, opportunities and in particular, work-life balance.
Gone are the days when. lawyers and legal professionals want to work 90-hour weeks and ring the bell for the highest billable hours in the firm. They have come to the conclusion that it’s just not worth it. Particularly legal professionals who, at some point, wake up and realize that they were never going to make partner.Chere Estrin
An interesting Harvard Business Review article indicates the highest resignation rates are among mid-level careers, 30-45 years old. Many have recognized the increased leverage they have as the demand for remote work increases and the risk of bringing on new hires are greater. It is my observation that some employees who were fortunate to make the shift to remote work, have found it difficult to truly achieve work-life balance. With increasing work demands, the line between work life balance began to blur and likely contributed to their exit. For companies that did not make a shift in flexibility, employees left to seek employment elsewhere much sooner.
Another reason employees are quitting is timing. Many continue to see this as an opportunity to transition to new jobs–due to long held desire for change. A pre-pandemic Gallup poll found 67% of US employees were disengaged at work and 51% were actively looking for new jobs or were open to one. The pandemic placed a halt on career transitions, allowing negative sentiments to fester. Now they are empowered by a competitive business environment.
Remote work, previously thought of by most law firms as work for someone who did not desire to advance their career, is now the biggest demand of employees. Work/lifestyle balance is at top of the list of demands. Many candidates are requesting 100% remote but in fact, few firms offer it. What they have been willing to do is the hybrid position – working at home and at the office. By all means, it is here to stay. I am working now with one major law firm that insists all employees be onsite, even with the current variants raging out of control. Their turnover is not only high, it could ruin their business. I picture managing partners coming to the office, turning on the lights, only to see miles and miles of empty desks with work piling up and wondering what happened. I have no candidates who want to go to that firm.
According to a recent survey by Indeed, 92% said “the pandemic made them feel life is too short to stay in a job they weren’t passionate about.” Job seekers said that the current roles open aren’t good enough, with limited availability in their preferred professions, and low pay in the good roles that are open. Benefits to changing jobs may not just be finding a job you enjoy more but could be finding one that offers better perks, career advancement opportunities, more flexibility, or even much higher pay.
Quitting your job should not be done impulsively. It needs to be well-thought out with a plan for the future. While you don’t have to be miserable in your current role to consider leaving, it just may well be time to move on.
Here are a few reasons why you might consider leaving your current position:
- You are being held back by “golden handcuffs,” which occurs when you’ve managed to keep your position but are under more stress and doing the work of multiple people. People have had enough and they want to break free from employers by prioritizing physical and mental health more than ever.
- You are burned out. Burn-out can be recognized by:
- Feeling a sense of continued exhaustion, both emotionally and physically
- Depersonalization – a loss of empathy and lack of connection to your job, coworkers, and feeling like you are “just going through the motions”.
- Feeling ineffective at your job no matter how hard you try
- Your employer insists that all employees return to onsite employment and you strongly prefer total remote or hybrid.
- You are rethinking – What am I doing with the rest of my life?
- You are having a crisis of purpose. If you are in a job that has no real purpose, most likely you are unhappy. Everyone needs to feel that they are contributing.
- You dislike management that will not change any time soon.
- You want to move up the ladder – not that easy for law firm professionals if you can’t make partner.
- Let’s face it – you dislike your job. Why are you crying in the shower every morning? No job is worth that.
- The commute is killing you.
- You want better benefits and more perks. One of my major law firm clients has a 12,000 square foot child-care center. Another has emergency childcare available. Better benefits can include: paying less for your portion of health insurance; dependent coverage; flexible schedules, hybrid working and unlimited time off, insurance coverage related to mental and emotional well-being and more.
- You love your job; the firm; and the people but you have gone as far as you can in this organization. There’s nowhere else to go.
- You are unhappy with your employers’ response to COVID-19.
- It’s just not safe to have a job right now.
- It’s time to retire and you may as well do it now during COVID.
- Your firm is not up-to-date in technology. This presents huge problem when you do want to move on as you will not have the skills to land a great paying job.
- The firm is merging and there will be lay-offs. You do not want to take the risk.
- Childcare is a huge issue and it may be better to be a stay-at-home parent than work.
- It’s just time to move on.
Before you quit, you need to ask yourself:
- Is this really quit-worthy, or am I just reacting to a temporary situation?
- What are the risks and what are the consequences?
Knowing when to quit your job requires a lot of critical thinking. First off, you can decide to leave your job after trying to make it work at your old job. When your efforts fail, and the job no longer serves your interests such as pay rate, professional development, work-life balance, conducive work and safe environment; then it is probably time to call it quits.
Quitting your job without another in some cases may not be the best decision to take. It is always safer to get another job offer before leaving the old one. Besides, staying in your old job while looking out for another puts you at an advantage. The reason is that you can negotiate your salary from a place of comfort and security as opposed to accepting any pay because you are desperate. On the flip side, because all situations are different, if you have to quit your job before you get another, ensure you have sufficient savings to see you through the job hunt.
Over three-quarters of people surveyed say that taking a new job may just be a transition while they find the job that they actually want. There’s nothing wrong with a transition job, particularly now. Be careful, however, that you don’t job hop. Employers will see a red flag causing problems in future job searches.
Starting a new job is a milestone worth celebrating 一
This is a new chapter that can have major implications for your career trajectory. By taking the initiative and immersing yourself in your new role and organization, you can maximize your chances of success down the line. Changing jobs means you are going to learn something new. What a great way to stay motivated, well-paid, productive, and above all, the big H – happy.
Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a well-recognized nationwide staffing organization based in California. She is the President of the Organization of Legal Professionals. Chere was recently interviewed by Fortune Magazine (www.estrinreport.com) and has written 10 books on legal careers, hundreds of articles and written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Her blog, The Estrin Report, has been around since 2005. Chere is a recipient of LAPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She is a former administrator in an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion company. She can be reached on Sundays from 3am-5am. Reach out at: email@example.com.