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This article is written by Mohona Thakur, Team iPleaders

Off late, I started watching the critically acclaimed CBS legal and political drama series called The Good Wife, for the second time around after possibly half a decade. All hail Netflix! I was first introduced to this series by my aunt during my summer vacation in twelfth grade; I’d forgotten how much I loved the series and the role it played in my inclination towards litigation.

The episode I was watching last night showed the firm Stern Lockhart and Gardner going through tough times during recession and showing over half the firm the pink slips. This reminded me of what I saw in an episode from Suits where almost all employees at Pearson Spectre Litt left after Mike Ross took the plea bargain. Such stark contrast.

And this got me thinking. When is it that lawyers start looking out for other jobs? What is the trigger to the ultimate decision of quitting the coveted law firm job? The job-hopping? More importantly, why isn’t attrition ever spoken about? Think about it.

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You will definitely find top reasons for law students and lawyers aiming for the law firm job, the statistics on the number of top law firms and their hires every year. In fact, I wrote an article just yesterday about it, you can take a look at it here. However, you will not find material online about attrition and reasons why a number of talented lawyers quit the big law. So, let’s talk about the unwritten today.

Let’s talk about why lawyers quit the fancy, well-paying, stable law firm jobs. Here is what my quick research on LinkedIn could come up with:

  • Following the Herd, Instead of Their Passion

Shamnad Basheer, the Founder and Managing Trustee of IDIA, believes that “a number of lawyers end up at law firms because they follow the herd instead of their heart and passion.” Not everyone is cut out for the corporate of law firm job. And yet, it is quite true that most of them are sucked into the cycle due to lure of the money. When there is no passion for the work, one tends to quit sooner rather than later.

We have an in-house example of the very same, actually. Both our co-founders are NUJS, Kolkata graduates who worked with Trilegal for a year before they quit their job and started working at building iPleaders and LawSikho. They were always passionate about legal education and taking it to the masses. Trilegal was definitely not their calling.

As a matter of fact, one of the primary reasons I never wanted to work with law firms (apart from the work-life imbalance) was the fact that everyone seemed to want to work for a law firm, without really knowing what to expect. It was like the domino effect, only with law students here in place of a falling row of dominoes.

Do I know of lawyers who have quit in a year or so? Yes, in fact I do. I had a mentor back in law school, or so I considered, who was possibly the very first lawyer I had come across. He took up a very lucrative offer from one of the Big 6 right out of NLS Bangalore and quit within a year. I still remember how he used to joke about the money he was making, but ultimately his heart was elsewhere. Today, if I’m not wrong, he works in the US in public policy.

  • Work – Life Imbalance

Work-life imbalance seems to be one of the primary causes of attrition at law firms. Soumya Shekhar, an independent legal research consultant, agrees with me, “I know people who are happy working in a law firm, people who are sticking it out just to pay their bills and people who swear they will never go back to one. Attrition happens primarily due to work-life imbalance.”

Zero personal life, more often than not leads to dissatisfaction amongst lawyers working long hours daily. And how many years before you finally have your body speak for you with all the exhaustion?

Ahmad Shazeb, a legal consultant, says that the biggest casualty of a law firm job is the lack of personal time that affects one’s own sanity. Unless you have a sorted personal schedule with place activities that don’t include work as such, you are doomed. Pent up frustration eventually start taking a toll and then leads to one giving up.

It is no surprise that working hours at law firms are generally over 12 hours in a day. This is quite obvious due to the number of clients that these law firms cater to. With the work hours that drastically drain lawyers, stress taking over your body and no scope of personal development thanks to paucity of time, lawyers decide to part ways with the job.

I don’t think anyone put it better than Shayonee Dasgupta, who has previously worked with Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas, “You cannot be passionate about your work if you only get to sleep for less than 3 hours a day and expected to put in a 22 hour work day. Slowly, the job becomes a liability that you carry forward because you have other obligations to fulfill. This sense of not having a fulfilling career drives most of us to quit. Paychecks and big bonuses come with an expiry date. The charm slowly fades away leaving you completely drained. Sometimes, your health goes for a toss while you spend all your waking hours to meet unrealistic deadlines set up by people who either have zero experience or do it because of ‘historical oppression’ (i.e. since I have suffered, so will you). Ultimately, a career in law firm, contrary to popular belief, is only one of the career options once you graduate. If you are not passionate about that kind of drudgery, you are bound to quit, sooner or later.”

  • Dissatisfaction

Dissatisfaction could arise out of ungodly working hours, from the kind of work that one is doing or for some even from the fact that one is not appreciated enough by the reporting partners.

Abhijeet Shinde, Principal Associate at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas, says that one of the many reason of attrition at law firms arise out of dissatisfaction amongst associates as they do not like their reporting partners.

This may not be entirely wrong. Ever since I started working for iPleaders, I’ve had to manage a number of employees reporting directly into me. I wouldn’t hesitate to state that I have come across employees who require to be continuously motivated and appreciated constantly for the work that they put in. When that doesn’t happen, they tend to feel dissatisfied and often even question themselves. I can only imagine that the same is expected not only from startups but also law firms.

Dissatisfaction, as I previously mentioned can also arise out of repetitive work. Imagine drafting similar contracts every other hour or drafting the same old SLP every weekend for a filing on Monday morning. When you keep doing one thing for a very long time, irrespective of whether you initially felt that you loved doing it, one would start feeling stagnation and not feel the potential to grow. It is almost like there is no challenge. Very few not only enjoy the work, but don’t mind repetitively doing it.

  • Better Opportunities

Now comes the lot that genuinely do want to work with law firms and like the culture. Abhijeet Shinde, Principal Associate at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldass, rates this as the top most reason for why lawyers quit law firms – to hop on to better opportunities. “Good law firms choose very good resources from select law schools. Students from these law schools have become aware that they are in demand and can get jobs as per will. That makes them choosy and they try out different places before they settle.”

A lot of lawyers shift from law firm to law firm in search of better opportunities, better packages or even better profiles. In fact a number of people on my research conducted on LinkedIn said that there is lack of avenues at the senior level or at leadership roles. So basically, as you climb up the corporate ladder, the opportunities seem to decrease. This theory may not be entirely wrong. Take a look at major job portals in India for that matter – maximum vacancies are for associates; you won’t find too many people looking for principal associates or salaried partners or equity partners as often as you would see firms looking out for associates.

However, the way I look at it, these very young-blooded lawyers may actually face a lot of competition looking at the top most jobs with better pay or work profile. Or for that matter work with a reputed partner. They themselves would require to up their skills in relevant areas of law to make it to their desired law firms, maybe even opt for a foreign law firm. They need to not only know the sector and the work, be abreast with laws and the latest developments, but also continuously reinvent themselves. Online courses may be one such way to prepare yourself for a tougher neck to neck competition.


Devashish Jagirdar, practising advocate at the Bombay High Court, added to the discussion on LinkedIn and emphasised on the fact that the growth graph of a lawyer at law firms is a major reason for them quitting law firms. Promotions as well as appraisals depend on the size of the firm. He argued that smaller law firms are closely held law firms, and do not see lawyers quitting very early.

  • The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side

Yes, this is undoubtedly a reason. You could call it a culmination of following the herd mentality, work-life imbalance, the stress of the job, dissatisfaction and the fact that a lot of the lawyers who end up working at law firms do it to gain the financial stability to move on to their passions. Of course, with enough savings in their bank accounts.

After a few years of earning enough money, lawyers tend to look forward to and explore what they are truly passionate about. In fact, today’s digital economy provides for lawyers with not just law firms as a career option, but it has also opened up so many new avenues to jump into. If you are still confused, look at the success of entrepreneurs that started Law School Tutorial (LST) here, legal journalism through LiveLaw, online blogging through iPleaders, legal recruitment through Vahura. Lawyers today aren’t just associates at law firms, they are omnipresent.

Ramanuj and Abhyuday left their law firm job to find their passion in legal education and built some commendable courses that can be found at, my mentor went ahead and built a career in public policy, I left the law firm job and decided to help law students in need of guidance and information by regularly blogging about issues.

These five reasons that I have mentioned above are not the only reasons that lawyers quit the law firm job. It is far from exhaustive. These are more or less the reasons that lie at the heart of the issue of attrition. If you would like to add to the reasons, please feel free to drop it in the comments section.

We are all humans and we have expectations and standards. Whether we believe it or not, a lot of our actions are driven by these very expectations from ourselves and from what others expect from us.

We all do fight a war with ourselves every day. The reasons differ, that’s all. 



  1. Really, I appreciate the effort you made to share the knowledge. The topic here I found was really effective to the topic which I was researching for a long time.

  2. […] the past week, we have been writing about why law students prefer working with law firms, why do lawyers quit their law firm jobs, life-changing realisations that lawyers have over the course of their career; it was only natural […]

  3. According to you, name one job when there are good experiences only? Indeed I am not denying but this is how it is, one should take the responsibilities. We should work towards making it a healthy work-life balance.


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