How New Lawyers Can Find Happiness from the Start

Are lawyers happy? We know that lawyers have a brutal job, working long hours and missing valuable family time. Working in a large firm can be demanding, and it’s not uncommon for lawyers to work 60 to 70-hour weeks even if they’re billing at 40 – 50 hours a week.

Smaller firms are starting to implement what they call “full-time flex,” which allows for a 40 – 50-hour work week that actually means billing for the hours you’re working rather than working 10 – 20 hours more than you bill.

While we may see a lot of lawyers working long hours and dissatisfied in the workplace, 56.8% of lawyers with six or less years of experience are satisfied in their field. And 68.1% of people that have been in the field over 6 years are satisfied.


Lawyers starting after the recession earn less than their predecessors: $91,765 - $106,681 in 2009 vs. $70,000 - $98,000 in 2015. This decline came despite having the same experience level.

Higher debt levels are definitely helping to contribute to the high level of dissatisfaction

Making a good life in law is possible even if earnings are lower and debt remains a concern for all graduates.

Lack of control is a major issue in the legal field. Lawyers work long hours, as previously discussed, and while it may be hard to put down a personal injury case or tell a corporate client to wait an extra day for their merger to go through, it’s important to have a good work-life balance.

Ditch Big Law If You Want Flex Time

Big law is very cutthroat. For a new lawyer, it may seem like a dream come true to land a job at a big law firm until you realize that you have little time to yourself after work. If debt and a lower salary is driving dissatisfaction in your career, the one thing that can help is flex time. This is a proper work balance where you bill for the hours that you work.

And the hours are not 20+ hours over the norm. While you may not earn as much, you’ll gain experience while maintaining control of your life. After you gain experience, you may transition to a bigger firm that offers better pay due to your experience.

Make Pro Bono Work a Part of Life

There is a correlation of pro bono work and increased happiness, according to the ABA. Not only does pro bono work increase happiness, but it also helps a lawyer build a network in the community and expand their expertise.

When applying for a position, it’s important to be discerning, choosing firms that offer flexibility in choosing assignments, flexible work hours, flexible work locations and even programs where infants-in-the-workplace are allowed.

It's possible to be happy in a big or small law firm, but it’s a focus on happiness from the start which will lead to a career filled with happiness in the workplace. Be discerning, choose your firm carefully and work on a work-life balance that excels your career and personal happiness.

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