Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Has the misery of being a law firm associate been overstated?

From the Careerist columnist Vivia Chen at

Now that everyone and his mother has weighed in about the misery of young lawyers, I'm going to propose something radical: They're not that bad off.

Take that much-dissected Am Law midlevel associates survey, which showed satisfaction scores plummeting to a seven-year low. Industry critics, including Steven Harper, have been lambasting the profession for not caring enough about morale.

Their criticisms are on target, except for this: If lawyers were truly despondent, why did firms still come out with an average satisfaction score of 3.729 ("5" being the high score) on the survey?

Wouldn't you expect the score to be scraping bottom--at least something closer to a 2.5?

Put it this way: If law firms were rated like hotels, they'd come close to getting four stars. So maybe working at a big firm is not a Four Seasons experience, but it's comparable to staying at the Hilton. Which is to say that the setup, while hardly sybaritic, is not all that dreadful either.

Why the disconnect between how unhappy lawyers say they are and how they rate their actual experience? The explanation is quite obvious: Lawyering is not much fun, but it pays well--damn well. And money buys some modicum of morale.

Continue reading here.


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