After compiling over 65,000 company reviews during 2012 and evaluating multiple factors that influence an employee’s job satisfaction, CareerBliss released their list of the happiest and unhappiest jobs in America. Topping this year’s list as the unhappiest job in the country is the thankless role of associate attorney.
The survey data was complied by looking at a number of “key factors that affect work happiness including: work-life balance, one’s relationship with his/her boss and co-workers, work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, daily tasks and job control over work performed on a daily basis.” And, despite having the highest average salary on the entire list of jobs—both happiest and unhappiest—associate attorney ranked the lowest by a significant margin when it came to job satisfaction.
In an article published by Forbes, CareerBliss co-founder and CEO Heidi Golledge shed some light on the unusually low happiness scores posted by associate attorneys, saying, “Associate attorneys stated they felt most unhappy with their company culture. 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.”
Once again proving that money isn’t everything, the relatively high average salary of $111k per year for an associate attorney wasn’t enough to stop it from running away with the title of unhappiest job in America. The intense pressure to keep billable hours up, coupled with astronomical student loan payments can lead many young attorneys to feel trapped in a profession they don’t even necessarily enjoy. Add to that the fact that many people enter the profession for all the wrong reasons and it’s not overly surprising that only four in ten attorneys would even recommend the profession in the first place.
Although it topped the list, associate attorney wasn’t the only law related job listed among the unhappiest professions: legal assistant scored a spot at number seven.
It’s also worth noting that the generically listed job “clerk” ranked in at number three on the list and is often linked to the legal industry.
On the bright side, according to at least one survey, there is a bit of a silver lining for young attorneys. Lawyers who have been practicing for ten years or more report a fifty percent higher level of job satisfaction than their younger colleagues. Maybe it’s because the ones who hated practicing law have already jumped ship by then, but let’s pretend the glass is half full and say things get better over time.