Mid-Level Associates at Biglaw Link High Billable Hours to Their Mental Health Issues

Young business woman suffering from headache or migraineGetting to the middle level at Biglaw is not easy, especially after a pandemic. First, you had to get into Biglaw in the first place (which can be quite difficult, especially if you didn’t go to one of the top law schools or get top grades). So you had to survive high stress and long hours. Ultimately, you needed to hang on and somehow persevere through the incredibly uncertain times that COVID-19 brought to the legal profession and the world at large (although we’re sure the special bonuses and salary increases must have helped a bit). ).

but if you made Reaching the mid-level ranks of your company over the past few years has arguably been more difficult than ever, and these associates have simply had enough. The American Lawyer just released its survey of mid-level associates, and as Dan Roe noted, they “kept the businesses going, made the partners rich, and now plan to reshape the profession in their image.” He goes on to explain that mid-level associates look better than last year, but below the surface, problems may be brewing. There’s more here:

On paper, Big Law’s mid-level associates are doing better than they did last year. In The American Lawyer’s 2022 Mid-Level Associate Survey, the average associate gave their firm a score of 4.36 out of 5, up from 4.29 last year. Associates’ perceived likelihood of being at your company in two years also increased slightly, with 32% saying they felt morale was higher than last year (50% said it was the same). Talent shortages also seem to have improved, with 10% fewer associates saying they felt their company was too short-staffed, compared to a year ago.

However, in other key metrics of personal and professional fulfillment, associate satisfaction continues to move in the wrong direction. The same number of associates said they felt depressed and anxious compared to 2021. As many companies push office work, more than half of associates said hybrid flexibility was lowering their chances of burnout. More than three-quarters said their job at a law firm had had a significant impact on their mental health, and 52% said they would consider quitting to achieve a better work-life balance.

To arrive at these results, Am Law asked mid-level associates to rate how satisfied they are with their firm on a variety of different questions: compensation and benefits; training and guidance; relationships with partners and other associates; interest and level of job satisfaction; the company’s policy on billable hours; and management openness about company strategies and partnership possibilities. And what came up again and again in the responses of the respondents? This year, work-life balance and mental health are in the spotlight, and high expectations for billable hours are to blame.

When asked what they would change about their companies and the profession in general, more than 1,000 associates spoke about the direct relationship between high billable hour expectations and poor physical and mental health. The more hours the firms required associates to bill, the more the long hours and lack of limits made their lives worse.

“We can’t plan a workout, healthy meals, or even downtime with friends when a client’s ’emergency’ (nothing a corporate client needs is really an emergency) could show up unexpectedly and interrupt them,” said a Greenberg Traurig associate. . “This leads to a lot of stress, lack of sleep, lack of exercise, and eating too much fast food and takeout. All of that will have a negative impact on mental health, and no amount of wellness webinars or weekly wellness tip emails will change that.”

Another area of ​​concern for the mid-tiers was the availability of hybrid or remote working arrangements. Of the approximately 300 associates who raised this issue, nearly all said they enjoy the flexibility these opportunities provide, and many wanted even more flexibility. The call for associates to return to the office has been met with displeasure. Here is just one example:

An associate at McDermott Will & Emery said the firm stopped circulating a happiness survey the moment it began asking associates to return to the office. “The mental health of associates is more important than trying to impress Jamie Dimon by forcing everyone back into the office,” the associate said. “You’re wasting our time and money, making us less productive and miserable, and there’s no benefit to it.”

With that said, let’s move on to qualifying. The full list is available here, but here are the companies that rank in the top 25 in terms of mid-level satisfaction:

  1. paul hastings
  2. McDermott Will and Emery
  3. Baker and hotelier
  4. O’Melveny & Myers
  5. gibson dunn
  6. Snell and Wilmer
  7. morgan lewis
  8. rome in white
  9. ropes and gray
  10. Orrick
  11. kaplan robins
  12. buckle
  13. Linklaters
  14. Foley Hoag
  15. clifford chance
  16. mustvoise
  17. frank fried
  18. Dechert
  19. Hughes Hubbard and Reed
  20. Cadwalader
  21. winston and straw
  22. Cooley
  23. similiar gump
  24. Goulston and Storrs
  25. Proskauer

Congratulations to all the firms that made the list! And kudos to those in the middle who have jobs they’re relatively happy with, all things considered.

Mid-tier dish on what law firms are doing right and wrong [American Lawyer]
2022 Mid-Level Associate Survey: The Rankings [American Lawyer]


Stacy ZaretskyStaci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to email her with advice, questions, comments, or criticism. you can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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