The Paradox of Minority Attorney Satisfaction
lawyer demographics, career satisfaction, diversity in the legal profession, race
A substantial literature documents the challenges faced by minority attorneys in the legal profession, ranging from underrepresentation in prestigious practice settings and lower incomes to discrimination from fellow lawyers, clients, and judges. In light of the foregoing, one would expect minority attorneys to regret their decisions to attend law school and become lawyers. Yet, empirical research indicates that minority attorneys are predominately satisfied with their decision to become attorneys and that their satisfaction is on par with that of white attorneys. How to account for this seeming paradox?
Drawing on data from a large cross-section of Texas lawyers, this is the first study to address and assess empirically the paradox of minority attorney satisfaction. We provide evidence that the drivers of white and minority attorneys’ satisfaction differ and may be rooted in different value systems. In particular, minority attorneys’ satisfaction is unaffected by their academic performance in law school or earnings from legal practice. Moreover, they are especially satisfied in nominally low status solo practitioner positions. This article concludes by advancing possible explanations for these differences.