Friday, July 15, 2005

Unhappy Lawyers? Not so!

Guess what ... We're happy again!

We're all aware that unhappy law students morph into unhappy lawyers; so just where did this latest group of California lawyers come from?

Contrary to everything I've read in the past decade, the July issue of California Lawyer, reports that California lawyers are choc-fulla' glee as they head for the office each day.

Based on a 2004 poll taken by the magazine's editors, "Fully 57 percent of responding lawyers said they're extremely or very satisfied with their jobs.  Another 29 percent said they are somewhhat satisfied, which makes a whopping 86 percent who are content with what they do for a living."

Not only that, the pollsters conclude, "What's more, 30 percent are more content at work today than they were a year ago. California lawyers do indeed seem to be a happy group."

The conclusions in the article seem remarkable to me.  Why?

The questionnaire was sent to "a representative sample of 700 California lawyers," and the poll achieved "a 17 percent response rate."  Do the math.  119 lawyers responded.  That means, that of California's 201,626 lawyers (as of July 16, 2005), 102 reported being content. 

Does the number of respondents seem small?

A 1994 issue of the California State Bar Journal (the official publication of the California State Bar) included an article entitled, "Pessimism for the future: Given a second chance, half of the state's attorneys would not become lawyers." The conclusions in that article are based on 2,700 responses (from a significantly smaller base number of attorneys at the time).

According to former litigator (now career consultant) Holly Huart: "More than half of the lawyers who responded to a 1992 California Lawyer fax poll rated themselves 'unhappy but inert' or so unhappy they would change careers; 70% said they would start a new career if they could.  Similarly, a poll taken by California Lawyer magazine in 1993 found that over 70% of the respondents said they would not go into law again if they could begin their careers anew, and this was reinforced by a study published in the California Bar Journal in 1995." (See: Huart article, with sources)

(Disclaimer: I am a member of the California Bar.  I am neither "unhappy" nor "inert" (does that mean I'm happy and "ert"?)... but then I live in Rhode Island and work at a law school.  Also, I was not one of the 119 lawyers responding to the survey questions.)  (djt)

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