LAW LIFE Are Associate Attorneys Beginning to Enjoy Their Job More?

November 22, 2016

Rewind just a few short years ago and associate attorneys could be considered as having the worst job in the country. Law school students were graduating with very little chance of getting a job to help pay off their thousands in student loan debt. The legal industry was left devastated by the recession so law firms were cutting back and no longer hiring expensive first year associates. There were no jobs to be found.

The work these associates, the ones lucky enough to find employment in a big law firm, were responsible for completing was mundane yet stressful. The fear of making a mistake yet knowing mistakes were being made put every associate on edge. They were spending hours scouring researching documents all in order to keep a job that paid their bills and debts but provided little else. With the average student loan amount for law school grads sitting at $125,000, these first year associates cannot do anything that might jeopardize their job, like complain.

A survey by CareerBliss in 2013 found that associate attorneys were the least happy with their jobs of the surveyed careers. They rated 2.89 out of 5, scoring below Customer Service associates, clerks, and tech support.

Fast forward to the year 2016 and you will find that things are improving for associate attorneys. Technology is greatly to thank for the improvements, allowing much of the document review to be done faster and easier with the use of programs and specific software. Associate attorneys still put in long hours, much of it spent on document review tasks but they are able to be more mobile with the use of iPads and laptops. Virtual assistants are also helping with their work. Software is being developed to do all the document review work so associates can spend their time more directly involved in cases.

Studies are now showing that associate attorneys are happy with their jobs with 80 percent of 881 surveyed associates saying they were “highly satisfied.” This improvement in satisfaction is also thanks to a bump in starting salaries. Just this year, many of the big law firms and a few boutiques raised their salary rates. Cravath Swaine & Moore was the first to announce their increase to a $180,000 starting salary. After that, other law firms were quick to announce similar rates.

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  • “After taking a brief hiatus from the practice of law, I was looking for a position which would enable me to enjoy a better balance between work and my personal life. I turned to Gary D’Alessio not only for his assistance in exploring opportunities for me, but to provide me with the counseling and guidance I needed. Gary’s personal experiences, familiarity with the Chicago legal market and timely knowledge of various opportunities ultimately led me to a part-time position at which I have never been happier.”

    Michelle K. Episcope, Associate

    Burke Warren Mackay & Serritella PC


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