COVID-19 could lead to massive exodus from the legal profession in France

Over 27,000 lawyers are considering options like career shifts, early retirement and shutting down

COVID-19 could lead to massive exodus from the legal profession in France

In France, the impact of COVID-19 could lead to a massive number of lawyers leaving the legal profession.

According to the results of a survey conducted by l'Observatoire du Conseil national des barreaux (CNB Observatory), the profession has been hit hard by the health crisis, with 65% of lawyer respondents reporting that they have no income, and almost 90% of stating that they were not paid through April in order to keep their firms afloat.

To support their companies, 60% of lawyers had requested financial aid amounting to €1,500 from the government. Around half of the respondents indicated that they will need to take out loans to make it through. Nine percent of respondents were not able to pay charges, and 2% intended to cease payments.

As a result of these issues, a number of legal practitioners are formulating plans to exit the profession. Survey findings indicated that nearly 30% of respondents are looking to shift to a different career once the pandemic passes. Five percent intend to close their firms, and 6% would seek early retirement. This amounts to 27,300 lawyers who could depart the industry.

“Lawyers are preparing for a long sequence of tremors,” said CNB president Christiane Féral-Schuhl.

She believes these outcomes are indicative of the nation’s limited provisions for lawyers in this critical period, including resisting the transition to remote hearings via videoconferencing.

“The state's response is insufficient and unsuitable for our profession. Due to their status, the vast majority of lawyers do not have the social protection granted to employees—for instance, they do not have access to partial unemployment,” she said.

With more than 40% of law firms shutting their doors, Féral-Schuhl says that they need “a backup plan.”

The CNB Observatory’s survey was answered by more than 10,000 lawyers.

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