The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 1, January 2010

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Lack Of Balance A Significant Factor Influencing Decision To Leave Practice

By Jocelyn Frazer, Equity Ombudsperson, Law Society of Alberta

The 2009 survey of lawyers who moved to retired or inactive status between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009 has now been completed. While numerous factors contributed to the decision to stop practising law in Alberta, the reasons given for these decisions included seeking “more personally rewarding opportunities elsewhere” and “lack of balance with personal life”.

In order to gather information regarding the reasons why lawyers are choosing to retire or move to inactive status, the Law Society of Alberta has conducted a survey of retired and inactive members for the past six years. This year, 298 lawyers received the on-line survey and responses were received from 110. Results from the most recent survey appear at first glance to be very consistent with results from previous years.

The highest satisfaction with the practice of law came from “intellectual challenge of the work”, “contact with clients”, and working relationships with other colleagues, support staff and court personnel. Interestingly, in spite of the abundance of lawyer jokes, 50 per cent of respondents were very satisfied with the respect and dignity with which they were treated by the public.

Respondents were least satisfied with stress at work, the balance with their personal life, and the adversarial nature of the work.

Suggested changes to the profession continue to include better work-life balance, greater acceptance of flexible work arrangements, more civility, and more flexible insurance/fee structures.

Resources are available through the Office of the Equity Ombudsperson to assist lawyers in addressing some of these concerns. Many options exist for those lawyers who may want to maintain a legal career, but not in a traditional practice environment.

There is a special membership status for lawyers who wish to remain active for the sole purpose of providing Pro-Bono legal services. Provided that legal services are offered through one of a number of approved organizations (see R. 148, 2.1), membership fees are reduced and insurance fees are waived. This continues to be an excellent way to remain active in the law while taking a break from pressures of practice and contributing to and enhancing access to justice.

Other options include establishing a jobsharing arrangement, engaging in contract work, providing legal research, providing locum services to other lawyers, mainly sole practitioners, to allow them to take holidays, or time to recover from illness.

For more information, or to discuss other ideas, please contact Jocelyn Frazer at 403-229-4769 or toll-free 1-888-229-4769.

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