By: Carmody and Associates. Published by: Florida Bar Foundation. Published in September 2007.
This report was prepared for The Florida Bar Foundation and the Recruitment, Retention, Development and Diversity Subcommittee of the Florida Project Directors Association. The report provides a comprehensive look at the financial and workplace issues legal aid attorneys are facing and provides recommendations for how to address them. It examines attorneys’ salaries, educational debt, when and why attorneys were leaving programs, and what attorneys needed and wanted in order to have a satisfying career in Florida civil legal aid. The authors gathered information from current and former legal aid attorneys through web-based surveys, personal and telephone interviews and focus groups, with an 88 percent participation rate.
Top five reasons (in order) attorneys left:
- Financial pressure due to low salary
- Poor management
- Financial pressure due to student loans
- Lack of professional support
- Poor supervision
- Salaries: Attorneys should receive, on average, a salary increase of $10,000 over the next two years. The Foundation’s loan repayment assistance program should be expanded and enhanced.
- Supervision: Programs should (1) provide more time for supervisors to supervise; (2) develop standards or guidelines for supervisors; and (3) develop a supervisor skill-building program for new and experienced supervisors.
- Job Diversity, Job Stress and Burn-out: Civil legal aid jobs are notoriously stressful, and some attorneys and programs believe constant, high stress is inevitable. Inadequate staffing and reliance upon special grants with high deliverables can also make legal aid jobs repetitive and stifle professional growth and reward. Many attorneys would like their jobs to be more diverse in the type of case and skill required to provide assistance.
- Recruitment and Hiring: Despite the need, recruitment and hiring of attorneys are not prioritized by most of the programs. Necessary time and financial resources are not invested in these crucial functions. Hiring is generally slow and cumbersome, which causes programs to miss opportunities to hire interested candidates.