BigLaw Associates Happy? Puh-leez

So Hildebrandt International is due to release a survey saying that 45 percent of the 464 associates surveyed rated themselves “highly satisfied” with their jobs, while another 50 percent were “more or less” satisfied.

I just don’t buy it. I’m not alone in my skepticism. There were some good insights from the comments on the WSJ Law Blog about why the survey isn’t what it appears.

Such as:

  • What year associates were surveyed? Serious discontent usually sets in about three years into practice, when your batteries have run dry and you see how little your professional life gives you in return for giving up all other areas of your life;
  • Law firms are currently obsessing about Gen Y, so they’re making some effort to reform. Call me cynical, but I’m not convinced it’s a lasting trend. I’d love to be proved wrong;
  • With the proliferation of blogs and other avenues to find out about the white underbelly of law firm life, law grads have a far different set of expectations than senior associates did. Well, maybe the details are better known, but I knew in the early 1990s that law firms lied when they said I only needed bill 1,900 hours annually to make partner;
  • A corollary, law firms are being more honest about what is expected.
  • With the shrinking job market for attorneys, associates are more grateful to have a job. Maybe, but cf. my post on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Perhaps the nitty-gritty details of the survey will give us some more clues. Until then, let me know what you think: are associates getting happier where you work?

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer, writer, and trainer. She would really like to believe that law firms are capable of becoming better work environments. You can reach her at jennalvey AT gmail DOT com.


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