Well paid but undervalued and overworked

Ingo Forstenlechner (United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates)
Fiona Lettice (Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Publication date: 3 October 2008



The purpose of this paper is to determine what motivates junior lawyers to join a “Top 5” law firm, to understand their job and career expectations and whether or not these are being met during their employment in the firm.


A survey was delivered to 300 lawyers, out of which 144 valid responses were collected. For the analysis, responses were clustered to identify emerging themes. Interviews were also conducted with randomly selected junior lawyers to clarify emerging topics and deepen understanding of the issues raised.


Key motives for young lawyers to join a law firm were money and improved career options. These expectations were generally met. However, once working, these lawyers were disappointed by a lack of interaction with and appreciation from partners, high pressure to bill more, long working hours and poor work/life balance, a lack of interesting work, and a lack of international secondments.

Research limitations/implications

The research reported in this paper is based on a case study of one of the top five law firms in the world, which is considered to be a leader in many areas of law practice. It cannot be assumed to be representative of the culture, policies and practices of many other firms operating in this sector.

Practical implications

The findings have been used within the case study organisation to improve junior lawyer motivation and could also be used by comparable organisations to improve the retention of junior lawyers.


The main contribution of this paper is the insight gained into the job and career motivations and expectations of junior lawyers. Additional insight is gained by exploring expectations prior to joining the firm and which of these could be fulfilled and which were disappointed during employment with the firm.



Forstenlechner, I. and Lettice, F. (2008), "Well paid but undervalued and overworked", Employee Relations, Vol. 30 No. 6, pp. 640-652. https://doi.org/10.1108/01425450810910037

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.