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Lawyer Wellbeing-- A New Metric Of Success?

In 2021, AmLaw 100 law firms enjoyed a 12.5% growth in revenue per lawyer-- that translates into a 19.4% spike in profits per equity partner. Not too shabby, if monetary metrics are the only way one measures the success of a law firm. But as happens so often when one refers only to a single metric, the monetary report doesn't tell the whole story.

Another metric, that has yet to be fully understood, is the effect of the "great resignation" on the legal profession. A report generated by Georgetown University and the Thomson Reuters Institute calculated that almost 25% of associates in all firms, left their employment in 2021. Almost 1 in every 4 lawyers-- that's a lot.

Sure, there were ridiculous bonuses reportedly thrown at non-equity lawyers, but workloads have generally increased, and new hiring has lagged significantly. To absolutely nobody's surprise, it turns out that more money just means more work-- and in a profession that's already infamous for crazy work demands, those bonuses seem to be little more than the institutionalization of so-called, "golden handcuffs".

Barry Schwartz (author of the book, Why We Work, and professor at the Haas School of Business at U.C. Berkeley) is on record as saying, "The notion that people work for pay, period, is false. But, perhaps more importantly, it could become true if you create workplaces that essentially deprive people of any other satisfaction that might come from work"-- sounds like a lot of the law firms with which
I was affiliated, before I retired!

I admit, the suggestion there might be, "other satisfaction that might come from work" (my emphasis) is something that intrigues me. And it puts me in mind of a subject that has been receiving a good deal of increased attention: Lawyer wellbeing-- which has an awful lot to do with the satisfaction that can come from work.

Maybe next year, people watching the legal profession will measure success by quantifying dollars invested in promoting lawyer wellbeing, instead of (or in addition to) dollars earned?


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