I am referring to the newly released surveys of summer and midlevel associates by The American Lawyer. "A vocal minority of those would-be lawyers" in TAL's Summer Associates Survey wished they had more work and less fun in their summer programs. "Mandatory social events can be physically and mentally taxing," summed up a Cooley summer associate in the survey.
I don't know about you, but I don't think that's normal for a twenty-something. If social events are "physically and mentally taxing" at that age, I hate to imagine what this person will be like in middle age after going through the mill of law practice. Likely a neurotic mess and a social misfit.
But here's the real irony: Associates in the survey don't seem to think being a big-firm lawyer is all that stressful:
Virtually all of the survey's respondents said they believe the attorneys they worked with over the summer have a manageable amount of stress. (That impression is in line with the findings of The American Lawyer's most recent Associates Survey, which saw job satisfaction among midlevels reach its highest level since 2004.)
Let me repeat: They think the stress is "manageable." Wow. I thought generation Y lawyers were suppose to revolutionize the workplace. Weren't they the ones with different priorities—better priorities? They're not supposed to kill themselves for their jobs like the old fogies at the firm. They're supposed to be religious about going to the gym, putting their families before work, taking vacations (all four weeks), and all that other work/life balance jazz.
Judging by the Am Law surveys, I wouldn't bet that the work culture of big law firms will change anytime soon. In fact, there seems to be a greater acceptance of the status quo more than ever.
Why are young lawyers so sweet and docile? Well, they're probably grateful to have well-paying jobs in this shaky economy. And maybe firms are getting better at vetting candidates who show the "right" attitude (could those psychological tests and substantive interviews that some firms use to screen recruits be paying off?).
To law firms, it must seem like a fantasy come true. Imagine a new generation of lawyers who want nothing more than the opportunity to put their nose to the grindstone and grind away. Imagine increasing efficiency and hitting new highs in what's considered the norm for billables!
So maybe this "all work, no play" attitude is good for the law firm enterprise. And maybe associates spouting that attitude will end up happier in Big Law. In the end, who cares if law firms end up being run by a bunch of people you'd want to dodge at a cocktail party?
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