Lawyers at Mid-Career: A 20-Year Longitudinal Study of Job and Life Satisfaction
University of Virginia School of Law
Jeffrey W. Swanson
Duke University - Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
September 16, 2008
Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Forthcoming
This study is the first to our knowledge to simultaneously measure the predictors of lawyers' satisfaction with their careers and the predictors of lawyers' satisfaction with their lives more broadly. One class of the University of Virginia School of Law was studied between their matriculation in 1987 and their graduation in 1990. All 360 living graduates of this class were contacted in 2007, with a response rate of 72.2%. Descriptive information was obtained and empirically validated measures of both career satisfaction and life satisfaction were administered. Respondents were found to have taken many diverse career paths, with most (85%) having changed jobs at least once, and half having changed jobs at least twice. Gender differences in the personal and professional lives of respondents were pervasive. Women graduates were far more likely than men to interrupt or forego full-time employment (39% v 1%), mainly in order to care for children, and were also more likely to have a spouse or partner employed full-time outside the home (77% v 24%). Working conditions at large private law firms emerged as a significant problem for many respondents; half of those who started their careers in large firms left to go to a different type of employer. Finally, both career satisfaction and life satisfaction were found to be high, with 81% of the respondents satisfied with their decision to become a lawyer, and 86% satisfied with their lives more broadly.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 52
Keywords: lawyers, career satisfaction, life satisfaction, longitudinal
Date posted: September 18, 2008 ; Last revised: December 11, 2012
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