THE MAKING OF A SATISFIED MIDLEVEL STARTS
sooner than you might think.
The latest results from our Midlevel Associates
Survey show that respondents’ overall job satisfaction
strongly correlates with how well they believe their law
schools prepared them for practice. The tie between the
answer to that question and overall satisfaction, as measured by the survey, is on par with the one between associate seniority and compensation—no small matter in
a world where lockstep associate pay is the norm.
Overall, firm leaders should be heartened by this
year’s results. The average composite score for satisfaction—based on associates’ scoring of 12 core questions on a five-point scale—ticked up slightly this year
to 4.08, the highest in a decade. However, some long-standing problems remain, particularly involving job
satisfaction of women and African-Americans, and retention of gays and lesbians.
Among the survey’s findings:
■ Women rated their firm-provided training in project
management and client relations lower than men did.
■ African-Americans rated their firms lower than other
ethnic minorities on the level of responsibility they are
given and the fairness of evaluations.
■ Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender lawyers were
less likely than heterosexuals to plan to stay at their firms
or see partnership as an important goal.
■ Respondents in the South and West reported higher
overall satisfaction than those in the North and Midwest.
The survey measures job satisfaction of third-,
fourth, and fifth-years at the country’s largest law firms.
At this stage in their careers, associates typically move
from rote due diligence and discovery assignments to
more sophisticated tasks. The best of the bunch begin
negotiating deal points, taking and defending deposi-
tions, arguing motions in court and working closely
with clients. Their training and experience make them
highly profitable—lawyers whom firms want to keep
productive and happy.
This year 5,176 associates from 132 firms participated in the survey. We rank law firms based on respondents’ answers, on a five-point scale, to the 12 core questions. We also rank individual offices in major markets.
Firms’ composite rankings begin on page 83; office
rankings for 15 major markets begin on page 85.
Given the correlation between the overall satisfaction
and legal education, for the first time this year we looked
at the average scores that law schools across the nation
received from respondents. Scores for the 53 schools
that had 20 or more respondents appear on page 74. The
4,767 respondents at those schools gave their alma maters an average score of 3.74 on our five-point scale, with
5 being the highest score.
At the top, there was some overlap with the latest
U.S. News & World Report law school rankings: The
University of Michigan Law School, Duke Law School,
Stanford Law School, the University of Chicago Law
School and the University of Virginia School of Law
all make the top 10 on both lists. But there were major differences too. At the top, Loyola Law School, Los
Angeles, which placed 87th in the U.S. News rankings,
cracked our top three, with a score of 4. 17. Georgetown
Law School, which tied for 13th in the U.S. News rankings, finished in our bottom 10, with a score of 3. 56.
TO ADD CONTEXT TO THE FINDINGS, WE CONTACTED
more than three dozen respondents from the top- and
bottom- performing schools. (Although the survey is
anonymous, respondents are given the option of giving us contact information if they wish to make them-
Our associates survey finds that the seeds of job satisfaction
are sown at law schools. It also documents sharp divides
along the lines of gender, race and sexual orientation.
BY ROSS TODD