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Everything You Know (About Biglaw Associates) Is Wrong

What the heck is going on? Is someone slipping Prozac into the Swiss Miss?
Why are Biglaw associates so darn happy these days? Is it the robust base salaries and generous bonuses, or is something else at work?
Over at the WSJ Law Blog, Nathan Koppel has this report:

Newsflash: Law-firm associates are happy!

… In one survey mostly of large-firm associates, 45 percent rated themselves “highly satisfied” while another 45 percent were “more or less” satisfied. Only five percent expressed strong dissatisfaction with their firms, according to survey, which is due to be released next week by legal consultancy Hildebrandt International. The survey was sent in June to more than 20,000 lawyers at firms with more than 80 lawyers. Some 464 associates completed the survey, 80% of whom were from “AmLaw 200″ firms….

In August, in its annual associate poll, the American Lawyer magazine reported that associate satisfaction has inched up over recent years to reach a record high of 3.81 on a five point scale, up from 3.64 four years ago.

What could account for this apparent change of heart among staff lawyers who, despite their six-figure starting salaries, traditionally are a notoriously unhappy lot?

Quit Whining Abovethelaw Above the Law legal blog.jpgKoppel floats the thesis that associate retention measures might be helping. He also notes:

There are other, more pragmatic reasons some lawyers may be complaining less. For one, the legal job market beyond big law is suffering. That’s a reason to be happy with a job if you have one.

Interesting. Is the misery of Biglaw in the eye of the beholder? Is “associate dissatisfaction” just a problem ginned up by whiny, self-entitled Ivy League brats? If you go into Biglaw grateful for your six-figure gig, and with realistic expectations for your professional satisfaction, will you end up “happy”?
The Joys of BigLaw? [WSJ Law Blog]

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