A great deal has been said and written about the epidemic of the unhappy lawyer. Surveys suggest that career dissatisfaction among lawyers, and even rates of depression, are on the rise. According to research published last year, 28 percent of lawyers experience mild or higher levels of depression.
Associate attorneys are not immune from this issue. In fact, a survey from a few years back found that “associate attorney” was the unhappiest job in the United States. Many theories are posited as to the root causes, including overwork, stress, uninteresting work and the adversarial nature of the law. In recent years, firms have increasingly been urged to improve culture and expand opportunities for work-life balance, particularly for young associates. Firms need to change, the thinking goes, to adapt to the needs and desires of millennials.
This is a topic that is of great interest to me. And it’s one of import and urgency. After all, how can the profession expect to continue to perform at high levels if the young lawyers in the profession (at least large numbers of them) are dissatisfied with the work they spend such a massive amount of time on?
In order to add my two cents to this discussion, over the next 12 months I’ll be writing a new column for Attorney At Work in which I’ll be expressing my ideas and focusing on issues of importance to young lawyers. I’ll be sharing my own thoughts and experiences, and also curating ideas from some of the best in the business.
The first post in the series was published last week. It focuses on the the idea that one of the most important lessons that law firms should be instilling in young lawyers is that they need to learn to love (or at least like) the process of practicing law. For a lawyer who learns to love the process, each day isn’t drudgery, it’s another opportunity for fulfillment. Partnership becomes a goal, but not an obsession, because there is satisfaction in the everyday.
Click here to read the first installment in my new “Start Fast, Start Smart” column.