Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Associate Attorneys Rank Dead Last For Career Bliss


career bliss Pretty much every day I run across a story about how unhappy lawyers are.

But I didn’t appreciate the full extent of their misery until I read an article in Forbes Magazine.

The Forbes piece cited the results of a recent job satisfaction survey from the delightfully named online firm CareerBliss. The company asked more 65,000 employees to rank 10 factors that affect workplace happiness: (1) relationship with the boss; (2) relationship with co-workers; (3) work environment; (4) job resources; (5) compensation; (6) growth opportunities; (7) company culture; (8) company reputation; (9) daily tasks; and (10) control over one’s daily work.

The happiest workers in the country? Real estate agents.

That’s right, those cheery professionals who help us buy and sell our homes are happy campers, with a Bliss Score of 4.26.

Why are realtors so blissful? Mostly because their prospects are sunny, with low interest rates, an improving economy and new homes hitting the market every day. My guess is they would have ranked much lower back in 2008.

At the other end of the spectrum are Associate Attorneys, who were dead last with a 2.89 Bliss Score. That was below public school teachers, computer salesmen and construction managers.

“Associate attorneys stated they felt most unhappy with their company culture,” says CareerBliss in the Forbes piece. “In many cases, law firms are conducted in a structured environment that is heavily centered on billable hours. It may take several years for an associate attorney to rise to the rank of partner. People in this position rated the way they work and the rewards they receive lower than any other industry.”

To make matters worse, two other law-related positions – clerks and legal assistants – also made the Top 10 Unhappy list, at number three and seven respectively.

Top10 Happiest Jobs

  1. Real estate agent (4.26)
  2. Software quality assurance engineer (4.23)
  3. Senior sales representative (4.19)
  4. Construction superintendent (4.10)
  5. Application developer (4.08)
  6. Logistics manager (4.07)
  7. Construction manager (4.06)
  8. Executive administrative assistant (4.04)
  9. Network engineer (4.02)
  10. Assistant controller (4.02)

People in these professions like the flexibility of their jobs. They say they also appreciate the chance to earn bonuses and commissions. Quality assurance engineers – who typically have the final say before a software product goes live – say they get satisfaction knowing what they do makes a difference.

10 Unhappiest Jobs

  1. Associate attorney (2.89)
  2. Customer service associate (3.16)
  3. Clerk (3.18)
  4. Registered nurse (3.22)
  5. Teacher (3.22)
  6. Marketing coordinator (3.31)
  7. Legal assistant (3.38)
  8. Pharmacy technician (3.39)
  9. Technical support specialist (3.41)
  10. Case manager (3.44)

The blawg Above the Law had a funny take on the survey.

Noting that lawyers are even unhappier than customer service associates, ATL writer Joe Patrice wrote: “Consider for a moment that someone making near minimum wage whose entire job consists of being yelled at by irate people over the phone came in SECOND.”

Patrice was also surprised that legal assistants weren’t unhappier: “I think of legal assistants as being associates without any of the fun tasks or money. I guess having a buffer between the clients and screamer partners makes all the difference.”

Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He loves what he does. Contact jay.reeves@ymail.com, phone 919-619-2441.

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About the Author

Jay Reeves

jay.reeves@ymail.com | 919-619-2441

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Over the course of his 35-year career he was a solo practitioner, corporate lawyer, legal editor, Legal Aid staff attorney and insurance risk manager. Today he helps lawyers and firms put more mojo in their practice through marketing, work-life balance and reclaiming passion for what they do. He is available for consultations, retreats and presentations.

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