March 5, 2007
Son of Even More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Lawyer Unhappiness Returns - The Sequel, Part IV
Building on my earlier empirical work on associate satisfaction, law firm culture, and billable hour expectations, I designed a national cross-profession study of lawyers practicing in firms, corporations, and government offices. The study obtained qualitative and quantitative information using two questionnaires: one designed for managing attorneys and one designed for supervised attorneys. We also conducted focus groups in five cities around the country.
Close to 50% of supervised attorneys agreed with the statement, "I feel stressed and fatigued most of the time." 63% of supervised law firm supervised respondents agreed that they are forced to sacrifice fulfillment outside work in order to advance their careers. Nearly half of the supervised attorneys in law firms and supervised attorneys in corporate offices reported that they were interested in exchanging lower compenation for working fewer hours.
I discuss these findings and others in a NALP Foundation book called, IN PURSUIT OF ATTORNEY WORK-LIFE BALANCE: BEST PRACTICES IN MANAGEMENT. I would be happy to send interested people a short article published in the NALP BULLETIN. I also discuss select findings in a Fordham symposium article called, The Billable Hours Derby: Empirical Data on the Problems and Pressure Points, 33 FORDHAM URB. L.J. 171 (2005).
I don't know how that compares to other professions (dentists, medical residents, inner-city school teachers), or to managing lawyers, but it's certainly another set of data points, and confirms that this is hard work that generally pays a pretty good wage. Whether I felt stressed and fatigued would have depended on what day you caught me (at any level). Fifty-fifty sounds about right. I would also have answered that I sacrificed fulfillment outside work every day of a twenty-six years career in the practice - as associate, partner, of counsel, and general counsel. Almost every second of certain points of my life was devoted either to work or to the needs of my children, and it was only as they grew up and pursued their own interests that I returned to many things that fulfill me: golf - at a handicap less than 20; art, such as I produce it; writing; teaching (first as an adjunct), etc. Even now, I have a hard time giving up writing (blog, article, book review or otherwise) to go play the little Audubon Park course, and I still haven't managed to regrout the mosaic that has been sitting in my apartment since August. You can take the boy out of the Type A environment, but you can't take the Type A out of the boy.
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