Biglaw, Rankings, Women's Issues

People Are Thrilled To Work In Biglaw (Except The Women)

The results of the annual American Lawyer midlevel associate survey are out, and it looks like people have been taking happy pills. We thought things were going well last year, but this time around, it’s all lollipops and double rainbows for third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates. According to Am Law, these happy campers gave their firms the highest composite scores the publication had seen in almost 10 years.

These associates have good reason to be happy. They’ve secured and maintained jobs at elite firms while entry-level hiring has been swirling down the drain. Spring bonuses have come and gone, but they’ve managed to stick it out. They’ve seen the rise and fall of Biglaw empires. They’ve seen the worst of the profession’s worst, and still, they’ve survived it all. They have the right to be happy.

Of course, not everyone is as thrilled. For the first time, American Lawyer measured gender differences in question responses, and women are markedly less satisfied with their jobs than their male colleagues. Considering how difficult is is to gain entry to the Biglaw boys’ club, who could blame them?

Enough idle chatter, let’s delve into the details of the survey and discuss the results…

Am Law says that associate satisfaction has “rebounded from recession-era lows.” One has to wonder if these surveys were passed out, returned, and then analyzed prior to the latest round of associate and staff layoffs. We imagine their responses may have changed after the Weil winnowing.

That being said, Am Law asked associates to grade their firms in 12 areas on a 1-to-5 scale, with 5 being the highest score. Biglaw firms must be handing out anti-depressants instead of spring bonuses:

[R]espondents to our Midlevel Associates Survey came off generally as a remarkably satisfied, happy lot. This year, the average composite score on our survey (based on responses from 5,683 associates at 134 firms) jumped to 4.040, a notable increase from 2011, when the score stood at 3.729. …

As for morale, the average score was a respectable 3.462, a slight increase from 3.388 last year, and a pronounced improvement over the dark days of 2009, when the score dropped to 2.666.

On the bright side, associates’ morale is nowhere near the death spiral it reached in the heyday of layoffs. But overall, women weren’t quite as enthused about their jobs as men. They’re unsure of their place in the overall Biglaw picture, and about 35 percent of them don’t even know what they’ll be doing in five years:

[W]e found that men doled out higher scores in virtually every category of the survey, suggesting that they are more satisfied with the direction of their firms and their careers than their female counterparts. The genders also split when it came to priorities: Men expressed a greater desire to become a partner, while women often voiced uncertainty about staying on.

What can be done to bring women on equal footing? For starters, firms could do some crazy things, like start promoting more women to the ranks of equity partnership. Or, in the alternative, they could start out small, like sexually harassing their female employees just a tad less. Cherish the small things, friends.

So which firms had the happiest associates? Here are the top 10 firms (the full list is here):

As you can see, there’s been quite a shakeup in the top 10 rankings this year, but we’re not really surprised that Paul Hastings managed to grab the number one slot this year. After all, PH was named the “best firm to work for” by Vault, and clinched a second-place finish on the Am Law’s 2013 A-List.

Now that the numbers are out, let’s hear more from the midlevels. Please grade your firm in our law firm survey. Are you actually this satisfied with your jobs? Are any of you debating whether Biglaw is really the lifestyle that you want? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Leaning Out: The 2013 Associate Survey [American Lawyer]
The 2013 Associate Survey: National Rankings [American Lawyer]
Job Satisfaction Rebounds From Recession-Era Lows [American Lawyer]
Associates Survey 2013: The Great (Gender) Divide [American Lawyer]
One Way To Overcome Barriers to Women’s Advancement in Big Law [Negotiation Law Blog]

Earlier: The Am Law Midlevel Survey Is Out, and Associates Are Happy for the First Time in Years
The Best Law Firms To Work For (2014)
Best in the Biglaw Show: The 2013 Am Law A-List

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