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Career Center: Associate Morale Survey Results – Part 1

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A key issue for the workplace, both during recession and recovery, is employee morale. In last week’s survey, we asked Biglaw associates how current associate morale at their firms compares to morale from one year ago.

For those of you who need a quick refresher on what the fall of 2009 was like, envision a time when the majority of the massive associate bloodletting had ended, but firms were still reeling from the aftermath; salary freezes and cuts were the trends du jour; and associates who were lucky enough to receive 2009 bonuses saw drastic reductions from the previous year. Could fall 2010 possibly be any more demoralizing for associates?

Find out, after the jump.

The recession may be over now, but many firms apparently didn’t get the memo — or, at best, firms are being very cautious and slow in their response to the recovering economy.

According to 37% of survey respondents, current associate morale is worse than last year, while another 37% say that morale among associates is about the same. Put another way, that’s a combined total of 74% of respondents who either report that morale has not improved or is even lower than in fall 2009. The remaining 26% of respondents feel that morale is better than last year. Additionally, this percentage breakdown is consistent across corporate and litigation practice groups.

Respondents who say that current associate morale is worse than last year attribute the decline to the following reasons:

  • 62% cite poor partnership prospects.
  • 47% cite the salary cuts and/or freezes that are still in effect.
  • 44% cite the fear of layoffs.
  • 41% cite dissatisfaction with the new compensation system.
  • 38% cite too much work and not enough attorneys to handle it.
  • 36% cite too little work to keep all attorneys busy.
  • A small percentage of respondents cite poor treatment by partners.

Those respondents who believe associates are working in happier times report a number of reasons that they are optimistic:

  • 65% cite the belief that layoffs are less likely.
  • 60% cite the increase in workload and billable hours.
  • 48% cite improving economic conditions.
  • A small percentage of respondents cite the fact that their salaries were unfrozen or raised back to pre-recession times.

Next week, we’ll bring you the rest of the survey results, including the best ways firms can boost associate morale and how satisfied associates are with the way their firms handled the recession.

In the meantime, check out the Career Center for more information on the associate experience at the top law firms.

The Survival of the Safest [New York Times]
Career Center [Above the Law]

Earlier: Career Center Survey: Is Associate Morale on the Mend?