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The 2018 Legal Workplace Environment Survey

29 June 2018 - By Geoff Adlam

The most comprehensive research carried out on the legal profession environment shows that nearly one-third of female lawyers have been sexually harassed during their working life. More than half of all lawyers have been bullied at some time in their working life.

The survey was released on 30 May 2018. Of the 13,662 lawyers who were invited to participate, 3,516 completed the survey. This was a response rate of 26%, which gave a margin of error of +/- 1.7%.

“When nearly one-third of female lawyers have been sexually harassed during their working life, when more than half of lawyers have been bullied at some time in their working life, when nearly 30% of lawyers feel major changes are needed to the culture of their workplace, and when 40% of lawyers under 30 believe major changes are needed to their workplace culture, we must call a spade a spade – there is a cultural crisis in the New Zealand legal profession,” Law Society President Kathryn Beck said when releasing the results.

Ms Beck said she was not interested in relative performance on these measures against other parts of the New Zealand workforce or population.

“This is about the legal profession. New Zealanders expect our profession to operate to the highest standards of integrity with a commitment to fairness, equity and justice. This survey makes it crystal clear that we are not meeting that expectation, we are failing to keep our own people safe and we cannot stand for this.

“The results of this survey are deeply saddening and I know lawyers across New Zealand will be very disappointed at what this report makes so clear. However, it is from this clarity that real change will come.

“The process of cultural change has started. Every practising lawyer has a responsibility for driving this change through their own behaviour and what they are prepared to tolerate from others.”

Survey format and methodology

The decision to carry out the survey was made following revelations of sexual harassment in the legal profession in February.

“It was decided that we needed a robust assessment of the workplace environments in which lawyers worked,” says Law Society General Manager, Representative Glenda Macdonald.

“It was important to build as comprehensive a picture of the situation as possible, and we wanted the survey to become an important baseline against which we could measure future progress. To ensure we got a representative picture, we invited all practising lawyers to take part regardless of what their experiences had been.”

To guarantee that the research was of the highest standard possible and independent, experienced market research company Colmar Brunton was engaged.

Two decisions were required about exactly what the survey should cover and how it should be carried out.

Because of the relatively small size of the population to be surveyed, it was decided to send the survey to all practising lawyers – an “attempted census” in market research terms. Colmar Brunton’s advice was that this was better than a random sample. While only a proportion of those invited to participate do so in both methods, “an attempted census is better than a random sample because we removed the bias involved of whether the random sample sent the survey invite is different to those not selected to be sent the survey invite,” Colmar Brunton says. Data in the survey was weighted to ensure survey findings reflect New Zealand lawyer population characteristics for gender and location.

The other decision was on exactly whom the survey should target. Lawyers are just one of the occupations to be found in legal workplaces. Its regulatory responsibility meant that currently practising lawyers were the only group for whom the Law Society held valid and current email contact details. Up-to-date information for former lawyers was not available, nor were names and information about law firm administrative and support staff.

To ensure total confidentiality and just one response per person it was decided not to invite responses via an open link. The ability to repeat the survey in one or two years’ time and measure change was also a factor in determining the target audience.

“The threat to the validity of online surveys with an ‘open link’ is that it is hard to control access. People could fill out the survey twice, post a link online in the public domain, email it to multiple non-legal people, or even worse, bots could start filling the survey in with bogus answers,” says Glenda Macdonald.

“To maintain integrity we would have had to provide each person in the proposed sample – all staff in law firms and organisations where legal services were provided – with a unique password that could only be used to fill out the survey. And this would require us to build a database of contacts with all the attendant issues such as privacy.”

Ms Macdonald says the survey did explore the environment for non-lawyer staff in legal workplaces to some extent as participants were asked if they had observed others being bullied or harassed in the workplace.

“This is not the same as directly asking non-lawyer staff about their personal experience, but it is clear from the results that responding lawyers have thought about all people in their workplace.”

Other surveys

A number of other surveys have touched on the extent of harassment and bullying in the legal profession. All used opt-in collection methods and invited responses. New Zealand lawyers were encouraged to participate in an online survey run by University of Queensland PhD candidate Rebecca Michalak in August 2011. Her report, released in November 2015, Causes and Consequences of Work-Related Psychosocial Risk Exposure, showed the survey was completed by 540 lawyers. The lawyer organisations in New South Wales and Victoria did not participate and New Zealand results were not separated from those for the participating Australian states. It is believed that around 100 New Zealand lawyers participated.

Josh Pemberton’s 2016 report First Steps: The Experiences and Retention of New Zealand’s Junior Lawyers included the results of 40 interviews with junior lawyers and former lawyers, plus an online survey completed by 785 of 1,777 lawyers whose practising certificates had been issued for the first time since 2013 and 41 law judges’ clerks.

An online survey of members of the Criminal Bar Association by Elizabeth Hall in March 2018 drew 283 responses. An online survey by the Wellington Women Lawyers’ Association was launched at the end of April and will close on 30 June. The WWLA says the survey is designed to reach interns, legal professionals who have practised at any time within the past decade, legal executives and support staff from law firms and other legal workplaces.

The survey results

The survey was conducted from 5 April to 1 May 2018 and a summary of the results is available on the New Zealand Law Society website.

The results can be considered in three separate but linked parts: sexual harassment, bullying, and stress and wellbeing. The large sample size and demographic information provided by respondents has enabled factors such as type of practice, size of firm, ethnicity, and age and time since admission to be considered. Locational information is also available, but this has not been included in the following summary because of the extreme variance in sample sizes between regions. The summary focuses on the key findings.

Sexual harassment

The questions on sexual harassment were based on two measures of the prevalence of “sexual harassment”. These were the Human Rights Commission’s definition and 15 behaviours.

Human Rights Commission definition

“Sexual harassment is any unwelcome or offensive sexual behaviour that is repeated, or is serious enough to have a harmful effect, or which contains an implied or overt promise of preferential treatment or an implied or overt threat of detrimental treatment. Sexual harassment can involve spoken or written material, images, digital material or a physical act.”

Behavioural definition

Respondents were asked about their personal experience regarding 15 behaviours. These were grouped at analysis into five types of sexual harassment:

Unwanted sexual attention – Unwelcome touching, hugging, cornering or kissing; inappropriate staring or leering that made you feel intimidated; repeated or inappropriate invitations to go out on dates; intrusive questions about your private life or physical appearance that you found offensive; repeated or inappropriate advances on email, text, social networking websites or internet chat rooms by a work colleague.

Crude/Offensive behaviour – Sexual gestures, indecent exposure or inappropriate display of the body; sexually suggestive comments or jokes that made you feel offended; sexually explicit pictures, posters or gifts that made you feel offended; sexually explicit emails, texts or social media messages; inappropriate commentary, images or film of you distributed by your work colleague(s) on some form of social media without your consent.

Sexual assault – Inappropriate physical contact; actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.

Sexual coercion – Requests or pressure for sex, or other sexual acts; implied or actual threats of differential treatment if sexual activity not offered.

Other – Other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature.

Harassment at some time: When asked if they had been sexually harassed in a legal environment at some time in their working life, 31% of women and 5% of men said they had – 18% of all lawyers overall. Five percent of women had experienced harassment once, 15% two to five times and 10% more than five times. Of women lawyers, 5% had experienced harassment in the last year, 13% within the last three years and 17% had been harassed within the last five years.

The lifetime prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace was higher among the following women:

  • Those aged 40 to 59 (36%).
  • New Zealand European women (33% compared to 24% of non New Zealand European).
  • Women in sole practice (43%), barristers sole (49%) and working in barristers chambers (42%).
  • Women currently in director roles (48%).
  • Women who had been in the legal profession for more 11 years or more (37%).
  • Women working in criminal law (45%) and women working in banking and finance (42%).

There was little variance in the lifetime prevalence of sexual harassment among men, except that it was significantly higher among men aged 30 to 39, of whom 9% had experienced sexual harassment.

Duration of harassment: For 41% of lawyers who were ever sexually harassed in a legal environment it was a one-off event. Around 31% of those who experienced sexual harassment said it lasted for more than six months, with 6% reporting that it lasted for five years or more. Additional analysis showed that duration was not significantly impacted by the gender of the target.

Location of harassment: While sexual harassment is most commonly experienced in the workplace (71% of respondents), work-related events were also a relatively common location (51% of respondents). More than one-third (35%) of lawyers who had ever been sexually harassed said that type of behaviour was common in their workplace at the time, while 39% said it occurred sometimes. It was “rare” for 16% and “very rare” for 8%.

Degree of offence: One-third (33%) of those who have ever been sexually harassed in terms of the Human Rights Commission definition were “extremely” or “very” offended (this was 35% of women compared to 15% of men) and another 33% were quite offended, with 27% “a little” offended.

Personal effect: Of lawyers who had ever been sexually harassed, 39% said the experience affected their emotional or mental wellbeing, with 32% saying it affected their job or career prospects. Of lawyers who had been sexually harassed, 19% said they resigned from their job, 17% felt it affected their career prospects, and 11% said they were labelled a troublemaker.

Type of harassment: The nature of sexual harassment varies widely. While non-physical forms of sexual harassment were most common, two-thirds (66%) of lawyers who had personally experienced sexual harassment described experiencing some form of unwanted physical contact. Of those women lawyers who had been sexually harassed (31% of all women), 93% described the harassment as unwanted sexual attention, with 66% having experienced inappropriate staring or leering that made them feel intimidated, 63% experiencing intrusive questions about their private life or physical appearance that they found offensive, and 58% experiencing unwelcome touching, hugging, cornering or kissing. 86% of women who were harassed described it as crude/offensive behaviour. This included sexually suggestive comments or jokes that made them feel offended (81%) and sexual gestures, indecent exposure or inappropriate display of the body (23%).

One-quarter (25%) of women who were harassed experienced sexual coercion. This was requests or pressure for sex, or other sexual acts (20%), and implied or actual threats of differential treatment if sexual activity was not offered (12%), or other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature (41%).

Relationship with harasser: Most targets (60%) were an employee lawyer in a law firm, with 11% employee in-house lawyers and 11% law clerks or interns. Few targets were partners (6%), in-house lawyers in charge of staff (2%) or directors (1%). The harasser was most likely to be the target’s manager, supervisor, partner or director (52%), followed by a more senior co-worker (26%), other co-worker (12%) and others associated with the workplace (11%). Clients were the harasser for 14% of lawyers and 6% identified judges as the harasser.

Gender of harasser: While the harasser was nearly always a man when a woman was the target (98%), if the victim was male the harasser was a woman for 74% of respondents.

Support and advice: Of lawyers who had ever been sexually harassed, 27% sought support or advice. When this was sought it was another lawyer at work for 70% of respondents, friends or family for 57%, a lawyer outside of work (24%), another (non-lawyer) colleague at work (22%) or private counselling (11%). For just 3% it was the New Zealand Law Society. Other more formalised institutions were also rarely contacted, with 2% contacting Police and 1% the Human Rights Commission.

Reporting: The survey found that of lawyers who had been sexually harassed at any time in their career, just 12% had formally reported or made a complaint about the harassment. Most who did (68%) reported it to their manager, supervisor, partner or director at work, with 37% reporting it to a human resources manager at work and 8% to a co-worker. Five percent reported it to an outside lawyer or legal advice service, 5% to the New Zealand Law Society and 4% to the Police.

The most common reason for not reporting was fear of consequences (65%), with 49% saying they were concerned about the impact reporting would have on their career, and 38% saying they were concerned that reporting the issue would make the situation worse. Ten percent said the person they would normally report the issue to was the perpetrator. Of the 57% of lawyers who had been sexually harassed and who had distrust in the process and/or outcome, a high 40% said they felt it would make no difference and 30% did not think the incident would be kept confidential, while 41% said they did not think it was serious enough and 38% dealt with it themselves.

Witness to harassment: More than one quarter of lawyers – 28% – said they had witnessed sexual harassment in a legal workplace, with this being somewhat higher in women who had worked in the legal profession for a long time. A higher proportion of women – 32% – than men – 23% – had witnessed harassment.

The lifetime prevalence of witnessing sexual harassment in a legal environment was higher among:

  • New Zealand European women (33%).
  • Women working in law for 20 years or longer (37%).
  • Women working as barristers sole (43%).
  • Women working in banking and finance law (40%), construction law (43%) and civil litigation (37%).
  • Men aged 30 to 39 years (34%).

Bullying

The prevalence of workplace bullying was measured with the Negative Acts Questionnaire, which is a widely used tool to assess the prevalence of bullying in the workplace. After questions on types of negative behaviour, Employment New Zealand’s definition of workplace bullying was introduced. This states: “Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that can be physical, verbal or relational/social (excluding someone or spreading rumours).”

On the basis of this definition, respondents were asked whether they had witnessed bullying of other staff or whether they had been subjected to bullying over the past six months, during the course of their work in the legal profession, and when they last experienced bullying.

Using the Employment New Zealand definition, 52% of lawyers said they had been bullied at some time in their working life (44% of male lawyers and 60% of female lawyers), and 21% had been bullied in the last six months (16% of male lawyers and 26% of female lawyers). Six percent of all lawyers said they had been frequently bullied in the last six months.

Lawyers working in criminal law (37%), Pacific lawyers (35%), Māori lawyers (34%), lawyers in barrister chambers (29%), barristers sole (29%), lawyers working in family law (28%), women (26%), those aged under 30 (25%), lawyers employed in a law firm and those employed in the legal profession for less than five years (25%) were more likely than average to have experienced bullying behaviour in the last six months.

Work-related behaviours: In the last six months, 11% of lawyers said they had frequently been exposed to an unmanageable workload, and 10% said they had been ordered to do work below their level of competence. Eight percent had frequently experienced someone withholding information which affected their performance, and 8% were frequently given tasks or unreasonable or impossible targets or deadlines.

Person-related behaviours: In the last six months, 7% of lawyers said they had frequently been ignored or excluded, with another 15% sometimes ignored or excluded. Being humiliated or ridiculed in connection with work had frequently happened to 4% and sometimes to another 11% of lawyers.

Physical intimidation: Just 4% of lawyers had been frequently shouted at or the target of spontaneous anger or rage in the last six months, with a further 11% sometimes experiencing that action, with it occurring for another 15% at least once. Threats of violence or physical or actual abuse had been frequently experienced by 4% of lawyers in the last six months.

Perpetrators: The bullying behaviours were most commonly perpetrated by a specific person (56%), although one-quarter (26%) reported bullying by more than one person. The bullying was usually by someone in a senior role in the legal workplace (65%), followed by more senior co-workers (20%), another co-worker (15%) and a judge (15%). Judges were a perpetrator of bullying for 44% of lawyers working in criminal law who had been bullied and 50% of barristers sole who had been bullied. The perpetrator was male for 52% of respondents and female for 31%, with perpetrators equally male and female for 17% of respondents.

Effect of bullying: A high 61% of lawyers who had been bullied on the basis of the Employment New Zealand definition said the experience affected their emotional or mental wellbeing, with 48% experiencing a loss in confidence, 45% experiencing anxiety and 20% experiencing depression. Almost one quarter (24%) of bullied lawyers said they resigned from their job as a result and 22% said they felt it affected their career prospects. Nearly one in five (19%) said there were no negative consequences, with 16% reporting no consequences and 5% finding it made them stronger and more resilient.

Support and advice: Thirty-three percent of lawyers who were bullied sought support or advice. Most (63%) sought this from friends or family, another lawyer at work (61%), a known lawyer outside work (28%) or another (non-lawyer) colleague at work (27%). The New Zealand Law Society was contacted by just 3%.

Perceived motivation: Age (33% of respondents who were bullied) and gender (18%) were the most common perceived drivers of bullying behaviour. Race and culture was considered to be a key motivation for the behaviour among Asian lawyers (35%) and Pacific lawyers (23%) who were targets of bullying. Overall, 5% of respondents who were bullied cited race and culture. For 4% of respondents the perpetrator’s personality, nature, habits and temper were the motivation, while 3% saw it as jealousy and envy.

Reasons for not seeking support: Fear of the consequences (57%) and distrust in the process or outcome (50%) were common barriers to seeking support and/or making a formal complaint. Of the 57% who feared the consequences, the most common reason for not seeking support or making a complaint was concern about the impact that reporting the issue would have on the respondent’s career (44%), followed by concern that reporting would make the situation worse (40%). Of the 50% who distrusted the process or outcome, 40% felt that it would make no difference.

Forty percent of respondents dealt with the matter themselves, 23% did not think it was serious enough, and for 11% the behaviour stopped and had not recurred or they had left the organisation.

Stress and wellbeing

To assist with building a picture of legal workplaces the survey also included 10 questions on stress and wellbeing. This has been an area of focus for the New Zealand Law Society since establishment of the Practising Well initiative in 2009 and specific New Zealand-based research has been planned for some time.

General Workplace Wellbeing: The legal profession gives a large majority of lawyers (79%) a great deal of job satisfaction. Lawyers are equally likely to enjoy respect at work from colleagues/managers (70%). However, more than a third of lawyers (34%) are dissatisfied with their work-life balance and six in ten (60%) find their job very stressful. Nearly three in ten (29%) feel that major changes are needed to their workplace culture.

Stressful job: When asked to agree or disagree with the statement “I find my job very stressful”, 60% of lawyers said they did – with 14% strongly agreeing. Women (63%) were more likely than men (58%) to find their work very stressful. Lawyers aged 25 to 29 reported the highest level of stress of any age group, with 67% of respondents. This fell to 60% for lawyers aged 30 to 39 and remained at that level for older lawyers.

Along with other indicators from the survey, the most intense period for lawyers appears to be in the 3-5 year PQE range. A high proportion of these lawyers are in the 25 to 30 age bracket – those reporting the highest level of stress – and 65% of lawyers with 3-5 years’ PQE found their job very stressful.

The biggest differences emerged in the nature of practice. While 62% of employed lawyers in law firms (and 67% of directors and 65% of partners) and 66% of those in barristers chambers found their job very stressful, this fell to 45% of all in-house lawyers, and 43% of lawyers working for a Government department or agency. It is important to note, however, that nearly half of in-house lawyers find their job very stressful.

Those groups where the response was higher than average (60%) included: sole barrister practices (70%), lawyers practising criminal law (69%), lawyers practising family law (68%), Māori lawyers (67%), 25-29 year olds (67%), directors (67%), barristers sole (67%), barristers chambers (66%), partners (65%) and lawyers in firms with 1-3 or 4-9 partners (65% respectively).

Those groups where the response was lower than average included: lawyers working in a Government department or agency (43%), in-house employees (45%), lawyers aged under 25 years (53%), lawyers working in-house for a private enterprise (54%), lawyers in practice for 1 to 2 years (55%), lawyers practising resource management law (56%) and lawyers practising company and commercial law (57%).

Stress management: Participants were asked to respond to the statement “My stress is appropriately managed, either by me or with support of my employer”. Overall, 71% agreed, with men (75%) more likely to agree than women (66%). Lawyers practising in smaller organisations tended to feel their stress was less appropriately managed, with barristers sole (56%) and sole practices (65%) below the average. Lawyers practising criminal law (61%) were also less likely to agree. A relatively high proportion of law firm partners (81%) felt their stress was appropriately managed, and lawyers in practice for 20 years or more were also noticeably above average (76%).

Time pressures: Lawyers working in senior law firm roles emerged as those who were most likely to agree with the statement “I work under unrealistic time pressures”, with 90% of partners and 87% of directors agreeing. This was well above all respondents, with 44% agreeing. Women (47%) were more likely to be under time pressure than men (41%).

Those groups where the response was higher than average included: partners (90%), directors (87%), barristers sole (85%), lawyers in sole practice (55%), Māori lawyers (52%), lawyers practising criminal law (52%), Chinese lawyers (50%), lawyers in practice for 3-5 years (49%), lawyers aged 40 to 49 (48%).

Those groups where the response was lower than average included: lawyers in practice for less than a year (33%), lawyers working in tax (33%), in-house lawyers (38%), lawyers in Government departments and agencies (39%), lawyers in practice for 1 to 2 years (41%), lawyers in practice for 20 years+ (41%), lawyers in firms with four to 19 partners/directors (41%).

Working extended hours: Over two-thirds (68%) of respondents said they regularly worked extended hours. Men (69%) were slightly more likely than women (66%) to work extended hours. The 3-5 year squeeze showed up here, with 72% of lawyers in that group regularly working extended hours – the highest for any range. In-house employees (49%) were far less likely to work extended hours than law firm employees (69%). Partners (79%) and directors (76%) were more likely to work extended hours. Criminal law and civil litigation (both 74%) were areas of practice where regular extended hours are more likely, followed by immigration (71%). Pacific lawyers (73%) were above the survey average.

Caring managers: Just under three-quarters of participants (73%) agreed with the statement “My manager (including partners and directors) cares about my wellbeing”. There was little difference between women (74%) and men (72%). A relatively large proportion of respondents (14%) found this statement not relevant. Young and new lawyers were more positive in their responses to this question, with 85% of lawyers aged 25 to 29 agreeing. This steadily dropped the older lawyers got, with 62% of lawyers aged 60 to 69 agreeing. Lawyers in larger firms were also more likely to say their manager cared about their wellbeing.

Those groups where the response was higher than average included: lawyers in first year of practice (86%), lawyers aged 25 to 29 (85%), lawyers aged under 25 (84%), lawyers in practice for 1 to 2 years (84%), lawyers in Government departments and agencies (84%), in-house lawyers in private enterprises (83%), lawyers in firms with 10 to 19 partners/directors (83%), lawyers in firms with 20+ partners/directors (82%), law firm employees (82%), lawyers practising resource management law (81%), lawyers aged 30 to 39 (80%).

Those groups where the response was lower than average included: barristers sole (20%), lawyers in sole practice (38%), lawyers in barristers chambers (38%), lawyers practising criminal law (58%), Pacific lawyers (62%), Asian lawyers (65%)

Respect at work: The statement “I receive the respect at work I deserve from colleagues and managers (including partners and directors)” received 79% agreement overall, with men (81%) more likely to agree than women (76%). The level of agreement was relatively constant over all ages. Lawyers in small organisations were most likely not to agree, with those practising as barristers sole (54%) and in sole practices (56%) standing out. Partners in law firms (89%) had the highest level of agreement. Pacific (73%) and Asian (74%) lawyers’ responses were below average.

Employer listens: Overall, 69% of lawyers agreed with the statement “My employer is willing to listen to my work-related problems”. Women (71%) were more likely to agree than men (67%). While a relatively high proportion of respondents said this was not relevant, those working in barristers chambers (33%) and sole practice were least likely to agree. Lawyers working in criminal law (55%), family law (62%) and immigration (62%) were less likely to agree.

Major changes needed to culture: The difference between female and male viewpoints was highlighted with responses to the statement “Major changes are needed to the culture of my workplace.” Of all respondents, 29% agreed (66% disagreed and 2% were unsure), but 37% of women felt major changes were needed and 22% of men. The older a respondent, the less likely they were to agree that major changes were needed, with 44% of lawyers aged under 25 agreeing and just 16% of lawyers aged from 60 to 69.

Law firm size was also an indicator, ranging from 33% agreement in firms with 20+ partners and directors, down to 25% in firms with 1 to 3 partners/directors and 21% in sole practice. In-house lawyers working in Government departments and agencies were more likely to feel major changes were needed (35%) as were in-house lawyers working in private enterprises (32%). Different views related to seniority were also noticeable, with 36% of law firm employees and 35% of in-house employees agreeing that major changes were needed, but just 12% of directors and 11% of partners. Indian lawyers (43%), Chinese lawyers (41%), and Māori lawyers (35%) were all noticeably above the average in feeling major change was needed.

Job satisfaction: The statement “My job gives me a great deal of satisfaction” – drew the agreement of 79% of survey participants, with men (81%) ahead of women (77%). Job satisfaction grew the older the respondent was, from 68% satisfaction in lawyers aged under 25 to 90% satisfaction in lawyers 60 to 69 and 86% for lawyers aged 70 to 79. Partners (90%), directors (87%) and barristers sole (85%) were more likely to be satisfied than law firm employees (73%) or in-house employees (77%). Interestingly, while criminal and family lawyers’ responses were generally below average for the questions in this section, they recorded a higher level of job satisfaction than average.

Those groups with the highest job satisfaction included: Lawyers aged 60 to 69 (90%), partners (90%), directors (87%), barristers sole (85%), lawyers in practice for 20 years+ (85%), Pacific lawyers (85%), lawyers practising criminal law (84%), lawyers practising resource management (83%), lawyers in employment law (82%).

Those groups with lower than average job satisfaction included: lawyers practising tax (65%), Indian lawyers (68%), lawyers aged under 25 (68%), lawyers in practice for 1 to 2 years (69%), lawyers aged 25 to 29 (72%), lawyers practising intellectual property (71%) and Chinese lawyers (72%).

Work/life balance: The relatively high level of job satisfaction was not matched when respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the statement “I am satisfied with the balance between my work and other aspects of my life (such as family or leisure)”. Overall, just under two-thirds (65%) of respondents agreed, with some variance between women (60%) and men (69%). As for the job satisfaction response, generally the older a lawyer, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their work/life balance. Just 59% of lawyers aged under 25 and 62% of lawyers aged 25 to 29 were satisfied, while 75% of lawyers aged 60 to 69 and 86% of those aged 70 to 79 were satisfied. There were noticeable differences according to the size of the workplace. In firms with over 20 partners/directors, 54% were satisfied with their work/life balance. Firms with 10 to 19 partners (70%) and 1 to 3 partners/directors (66%) had the highest levels of satisfaction for law firms. Lawyers working in Government departments or agencies had the highest of all levels of satisfaction, and in-house lawyers in private enterprises were also above average.

Those groups where there was the highest satisfaction with work/life balance included: lawyers in Government departments and agencies (76%), lawyers aged 60 to 69 (75%), lawyers practising intellectual property (71%), lawyers practising immigration (71%), lawyers in firms with 10 to 19 partners/directors (70%), Chinese lawyers (70%), in-house lawyers in private organisations (69%).

Work-life balance issues are most prevalent among: lawyers in firms with over 20 partners/directors (54% satisfied with work/life balance vs 65% on average, and 84% regularly working extended hours vs 68% on average), lawyers working in immigration law (53% satisfied with work/life balance) lawyers in practice for 3-5 years (57% satisfied with work/life balance), lawyers practising criminal law (58% satisfied with work/life balance and 74% regularly work extended hours), lawyers practising civil litigation lawyer (74% regularly work extended hours), lawyers aged under 25 (59% satisfied with work/life balance), Māori lawyers (59% satisfied with work/life balance), and barristers sole (61% satisfied with work/life balance).

Follow up survey planned

When releasing the results of the survey at a press conference in Auckland on 30 May, Law Society President Kathryn Beck said the Law Society would repeat the survey of the legal profession on workplace environments. Ms Beck said it was very important to track changes and the Law Society would carry out another survey in one or two years’ time.

Last updated on the 29th June 2018