As readers are aware, there has been a great deal of speculation concerning legal careers in the post-recession period. To fill a gap in the empirical literature, Gabriele Plickert (Sociology-Cal Poly Pomona) and I have been working on a project that examines lawyers' incomes and career satisfaction using data from active members of the State Bar of Texas. Here is the abstract for our first piece, Attorneys' Career Dissatisfaction in the New Normal:
The 2008 economic recession had a seismic impact on the legal profession. This Article is the first to empirically assess whether the recession has made law an unsatisfying career.
Relying on survey data from over 11,000 active members of the State Bar of Texas, we find that only 13.5% of all attorneys and 11.5% of full-time attorneys are dissatisfied with their careers. Newer attorneys report greater career dissatisfaction than more experienced attorneys, yet they too are largely satisfied.
We also determine using logistic regression that three factors are highly predictive of lawyers’ career dissatisfaction: 1) comparatively low incomes; 2) working in private practice as opposed to in government or in a non-profit/public interest setting; and 3) law firm employment in a non-partnership role. Law school debt and lower class rank have only minor effects on career dissatisfaction whereas race, gender, years of practice experience, practice area, and firm size have no independent effects.
The article also highlights the unique challenges faced by attorneys who began their careers in and around the recession. Comments are welcome!
*AccessLex provided generous grant support for this project.