How Satisfied Are BigLaw Associates?

June 21, 2017

When I worked in BigLaw, it seemed no associates were truly happy. It's a stressful job, with long hours, demanding bosses, and an employment model that requires most associates to leave the firm before ever having the chance to make partner. But when we asked BigLaw associates in Vault's 2016 Associate Survey how satisfied they were with their jobs, they were a pretty happy bunch. On a scale of 1-10 (completely unsatisfied to completely satisfied), the average score was an 8.08. But this score doesn't show the whole picture. So we broke satisfaction down by year, gender, and city to see which BigLaw associates are the most satisfied.

Satisfaction by Year

While it's not a perfect downward slope, satisfaction falls as associates move up through the ranks with only two slight upticks for seventh and ninth years. Overall, the longer associates are in BigLaw, the less satisfied they are.

Satisfaction by Gender

This graph is telling; male associates are significantly more satisfied in BigLaw than are female associates. There could be a lot of factors that explain this, including maternal leave policies, sexism in the workplace, and the diminished partnership prospects for female associates.

Satisfaction by City

Finally, we see that LA, Silicon Valley, and Boston associates are the happiest in country, while Miami and (especially) Denver lag behind. New York and DC—the two largest legal markets—are in the middle of the pack.

So if you're a male, first year associate in LA, you're probably loving life. But if you're a female senior associate in Denver, probably not so much.

When I worked in BigLaw, it seemed no associates were truly happy. It's a stressful job, with long hours, demanding bosses, and an employment model that requires most associates to leave the firm before ever having the chance to make partner. But when we asked BigLaw associates in Vault's 2016 Associate Survey how satisfied they were with their jobs, they were a pretty happy bunch. On a scale of 1-10 (completely unsatisfied to completely satisfied), the average score was an 8.08. But this score doesn't show the whole picture. So we broke satisfaction down by year, gender, and city to see which BigLaw associates are the most satisfied.

Satisfaction by Year

While it's not a perfect downward slope, satisfaction falls as associates move up through the ranks with only two slight upticks for seventh and ninth years. Overall, the longer associates are in BigLaw, the less satisfied they are.

Satisfaction by Gender

This graph is telling; male associates are significantly more satisfied in BigLaw than are female associates. There could be a lot of factors that explain this, including maternal leave policies, sexism in the workplace, and the diminished partnership prospects for female associates.

Satisfaction by City

Finally, we see that LA, Silicon Valley, and Boston associates are the happiest in country, while Miami and (especially) Denver lag behind. New York and DC—the two largest legal markets—are in the middle of the pack.

So if you're a male, first year associate in LA, you're probably loving life. But if you're a female senior associate in Denver, probably not so much.

by Matt Moody

© 2017 Vault.com Inc.

Assisting Law Firms & Corporations in Their Search for Exceptional Legal Staff

Chicago river at night
  • “Chicago Legal Search cares about its candidates. My representative (Simone Green) always made sure that my needs were met above all, unlike other staffing agencies. They showed a true interest in making sure that the process is comfortable and beneficial for all parties involved.”

    Luis Torres, Paralegal

    Foley & Lardner


CLS Legal Staffing. 180 N. LaSalle St., Suite 3525, Chicago, IL 60601 312.251.2588.