Grantee Research

Attorneys' Career Dissatisfaction in the New Normal

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



career satisfaction, Great Recession of 2008, legal market, practice setting, lawyer salaries, student loans


The 2008 economic recession had a seismic impact on the legal profession. This Article is the first to empirically assess whether the recession has made law an unsatisfying career. Relying on survey data from over 11,000 active members of the State Bar of Texas, we find that only 13.5% of all attorneys and 11.5% of full-time attorneys are dissatisfied with their careers. Newer attorneys report greater career dissatisfaction than more experienced attorneys, yet they too are largely satisfied. We also determine using logistic regression that three factors are highly predictive of lawyers’ career dissatisfaction: 1) comparatively low incomes; 2) working in private practice as opposed to in government or in a non-profit/public interest setting; and 3) law firm employment in a non-partnership role. Law school debt and lower class rank have only minor effects on career dissatisfaction whereas race, gender, years of practice experience, practice area, and firm size have no independent effects.