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October 19, 2011

The unhappy associate

While doing a little background work on lawyer happiness, I stumbled across a fascinating article by David T. Zaring and William D. Henderson entitled "Young Associates in Trouble."  (The SSRN link is here). 

Zaring and Henderson are writing to review two novels about troubled big-firm associates, but they move beyond that to actually conduct a quantitative study of the issue:

"In this review essay, we compare Kermit Roosevelt's and Nick Laird's bleak portrayals with findings from a unique dataset on law firm profitability, prestige, hours worked, and various measures of several associate satisfactions. We also mine the findings of several empirical studies that track the experience of lawyers over time. We observe that higher firm profitability is associated with higher salaries, bonuses, and prestige. Yet, higher profits also have a statistically significant relationship with longer hours, a less family-friendly workplace, less interesting work, less opportunity to work with partners, less associate training, less communication regarding partnership, and a higher reported likelihood of leaving the firm within the next two years. Nonetheless, graduates from the nation's most elite law schools tend to gravitate toward the most profitable and prestigious (and most grueling) law firms. The attraction of the most elite firms may be superior outplacement options. Or perhaps, as both novels intimate, it may stem from a reluctance to make hard life choices."

As legal educators, is it part of our role to help our students make "hard life choices"-- even if that choice is away from the most lucrative jobs?

-- Mark Osler

October 19, 2011 | Permalink


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