Lawyers are less well treated by their employers than comparable professionals such as accountants – and women fare worse than men, new research shows.

According to an ICM study, 41% of private practice lawyers believe they are only ‘adequately’ or ‘poorly’ looked after at work, a figure that stands at just 29% for accountants.

The study also showed that male lawyers are far more likely to be ‘well looked after’ than female colleagues. More than half the respondents worked at firms with over 200 employees.

Even in a difficult legal services economy, this level of employee dissatisfaction contributed to staff turnover, other results indicated.

If they did not feel ‘well cared for’, 25% of lawyers would consider leaving their job, a further 24% would be less likely to stay with an employer long-term, and 26% noted that such poor morale damaged productivity.

The research was undertaken for income protection provider Unum, which estimates the cost of staff turnover at £39,887 per employee in the legal sector. ‘This is an issue employers simply cannot afford to ignore,’ said Linda Smith, human resources director at Unum.

A ‘fair and competitive salary’ led the list of expectations a law firm needed to meet where lawyers felt ‘well looked after’ (84%). But a further seven criteria finished ahead of any other direct financial reward.

These included ‘feeling empowered at work’ (79%), having a ‘good relationship with line managers’ (76%), and ‘having my employer listen if I have problems or concerns’ (69%).

Addressing these expectations, Smith noted, ‘drives maximum loyalty’ to employers.

Previous statistics from LawCare, the charity established to support solicitors experiencing problems, showed that of 515 new case files opened in 2013, 22% attributed their problems to ‘workload’, 19% to bullying and 17% to financial problems.