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A response to 'Bloomberg Businessweek Remains Skeptical'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 27/11/13

Bloomberg Businessweek woke up on the wrong side of the bed on the morning it decided to comment on what appears to be a rise in associate satisfaction at law firms, according to an American Lawyer survey.

Of course, the fact that BigLaw can be a grind for the associates pulling long hours isn’t breaking news, but the undercurrent of Bloomberg’s analysis is overly facile.  “Really?  You think you are happy in this dead end job?”  says Bloomberg to over 5,000 associate attorneys participating in the survey.
Contrary to Bloomberg’s suggestion, as legal recruiters, we regularly have one-on-one conversations with associate-level lawyers and a significant number of them are happier in their positions because post recession, they appreciate having a stable career.  However, what we hear is far more varied and nuanced.  Many lawyers have the opportunity to do appreciably more work than in recent past, in part because of the layoffs at BigLaw firms during the recession.  Even fairly junior lawyers seem to have a concrete vision for the skills they want to develop and they appreciate having access to mentors and clients that can help them realize their goals.  As easy as it is to paint all of BigLaw with one big bad brush, the junior and mid-level attorneys with which we work don’t get caught up on the stereotypes of associate life, but clearly the commentators do.
If a third year at an AmLaw 100 tells us that he or she is fulfilled in his or her job, we believe it.  These associates are, after all, best suited to evaluate their own level of satisfaction.  On the flip side, unsatisfied lawyers are rarely looking for an escape chute; rather, the majority seek our assistance to identify specific practice and location changes they can make to advance their careers and allow them to achieve their goals.  So, while Bloomberg Businessweek and other commentators continue to yell about how crazy it is that young lawyers in BigLaw seem happy, we will continue to listen to them in order to find out why.