In my first blog post for this site, I said that being a lawyer doesn’t mean being miserable, and talked about my journey to becoming a program attorney at ALI. It seems that I knew a little something when I decided to pursue an alternate career.
According to a survey conducted last year by online job site http://www.careerbliss.com, associate attorneys are unhappier in their jobs than anyone else, excluding any executive level positions. 65,000 employees completed a survey (with at least 50 surveys completed for each job title), rating ten factors that affect workplace happiness, such as compensation and daily tasks. Despite being well compensated with an average salary of $111,000, the survey says that associates did not like working in an environment focused on the billable hour, and where it can take years to become a partner and reap the rewards of partnership-level work and pay.
So who was happiest? Real estate agents. Really? In this economy?
While I find the methodology and results of this survey somewhat questionable, there is no doubt that young lawyers have been floundering in a time of lay offs and hiring freezes. Those who truly are unhappy are probably afraid to leave for fear of being unemployed – a position surely worse. So does it come down to the choice of being miserable or being unemployed? Or taking a public sector or non-profit job and not being able to pay off your student loans? For me, I chose the quality of life with the 30 year payment plan for my loans. It wasn’t a difficult decision. While I’ve never been an associate, I did experience the long, billable hours as a litigation paralegal at a large firm, so I had some insight on the associate office life, and knew before even starting law school that it wasn’t for me. Not everyone is so lucky.