Bloomberg Law
March 11, 2021, 5:33 PM

ANALYSIS: Hours Data Show the Sweet Spot for Lawyer Satisfaction

Linda Ouyang
Linda Ouyang
Research and Data Analyst
Jacquelyn Palmer
Jacquelyn Palmer
Research and Data Analyst

Bloomberg Law’s Attorney Workload and Hours Survey asked 1,554 lawyers how much they work, how much of that work they bill, how satisfied they are with their jobs, and how they are doing in terms of their personal well-being. Using the results of this survey, we are now able to profile the satisfied lawyer—and a surprising amount of lawyers are, in fact, satisfied at work!

Furthermore, while in-house lawyers report being more satisfied in their jobs than their law firm counterparts, more than half of law firm lawyers still report a satisfaction level of 7 or more on a scale of 0–10.

Lawyers Eat Up to 50 Percent of Hours They Work

It’s true. Lawyers work a lot of hours, and we have the numbers to back it up.

We’ve all heard horror stories of people working more than 100 hours in a week, and our results confirm this crushing reality. One-fifth of law firm lawyers report billing over 80 hours in their busiest week, and most of those that bill more than 80 hours actually work more than 100 hours in that same week.

But lawyers aren’t confined to one bad week per year. Respondents report working an average of 53 hours per week, with law firm lawyers working slightly more hours on average (54 hours) than in-house lawyers (51 hours). Junior and mid-level lawyers are working and billing more hours than senior lawyers, but senior lawyers experience the largest gap between hours billed and hours worked, working nearly 50% more hours than they bill.

Ingredients to a Satisfied Lawyer

Despite the long hours, 59% of respondents report an overall job satisfaction of 7 or higher. But what does a satisfied lawyer look like?

Our results indicate that respondents who report higher job satisfaction scores are more likely to:

- have more years in practice;
- work in-house; and
- not currently be experiencing burnout.

However, matching one or all of these factors does not guarantee job satisfaction.

The Scoop on Mental Health

Even satisfied lawyers can struggle with mental health issues. When asked about how work-related issues have impacted them this past year, across the board, lawyers most often report experiencing disrupted sleep and anxiety. But these issues are reported less often by respondents with higher job satisfaction scores.

Made with Flourish

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Not Just a Single Serving

Bloomberg Law will continue to collect responses to the Attorney Workload and Hours Survey throughout the year on a quarterly basis. Quarterly data will help us tap into the hours that lawyers are putting into their jobs, overall job satisfaction, and how these factors interact with general well-being. Keep an eye out for our next round of data collection in April and forthcoming in-depth analyses on survey results. So, tell us … how are you?

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our Surveys, Reports & Data Analysis, In Focus: Lawyer Well-Being, and In Focus: Lawyer Development pages.

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