A wise man once said, “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.” Lawyers, allegedly an unhappy lot, are asked if they are happy all the time. Vault asks, Am Law asks, and in a roundabout way, so do we.

To date, we’ve received nearly 8,000 responses to our ATL Insider Survey. Among other things, our survey poses this question to law firm lawyers: “If you had the chance to do it all over again, would choose to work for your firm?”

Unsurprisingly, those who answer “yes” tend to highly rate their firms in such areas as compensation, culture, and training. For those that wish they could take a Mulligan when it comes to their choice of employer, the inverse is true. Here is a comparison of ratings scores (on a scale of 1-10) for the various aspects of law firm life, broken out by responses to the “Mulligan” question:

SUBJECT ”Yes” ”No”
Compensation 7.81 5.35
Hours 7.38 4.81
Firm Morale 7.7 3.53
Training 7.45 4.32
Culture and Colleagues 8.56 4.56


Hardly counterintuitive stuff, we know, but it allows us to use the “Mulligan” response as a proxy for overall happiness/satisfaction, as it’s so broadly predictive of the nature of the individual’s assessment of his firm.

Back in April, we shared our survey findings showing that Davis Polk was the top firm when it came to morale (to date, this holds true.) Today, we look at whether there are notable differences regarding satisfaction based on practice area. If we slice our survey data by practice, we find that there certainly are. So after the jump, let’s look at how practice groups stack up against one another in terms of the happiness of its practitioners….

And the Happy Camper prize goes to…. Tax! An impressive 89 percent of tax attorneys tell us that they would make the same choice. Coming in last in this category, although with a still respectable 74 percent “Yes” rating, was Bankruptcy.

If we look at the two largest practice groups, Corporate and Litigation, we find that among these cohorts (66 percent of all respondents), the happy (i.e., “Yes” to the do-over question) Corporate associates have the highest overall satisfaction levels, with particularly high marks for “Culture and Colleagues”:

The least satisfied? The “No” Corporate associates. So it seems Biglaw’s happiest and saddest lawyers can be found in the corporate departments. There is apparently a much narrower spread of sentiment among litigators as compared to their transactional peers.

(If you haven’t yet, please take five minutes and take our ATL Insider Survey.)


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