October 07, 2013 Practice Points

American Lawyer Reports Gender Divides in Midlevel Associate Job Satisfaction

By Sara E. Dionne

The American Lawyer has released the results of its 2013 Midlevel Associates Survey, which collects data from third- through fifth-year associates at the country’s largest law firms. The survey results indicate that midlevel associates are reporting greater satisfaction than in the past. Indeed, the publication notes that the composite survey scores are the highest it has seen in nearly 10 years. Behind this good news, however, analysis of these results reveals notable differences in the reported experiences of men and women.

First, men tend to report higher satisfaction scores than women. Second, men and women in the survey appear to differ with regard to priorities. For example, women in the study were more likely than the men to indicate a willingness to take a pay cut in return for a reduction of billable hours. When survey respondents were asked what would motivate them to leave their current firm, men were more likely than women to cite business or monetary reasons (such as not making partner or to make more money), while women were more likely to cite a better work/life balance. A higher percentage of the male respondents indicated that they expected to be a partner within five years, whereas a higher percentage of female respondents were unsure what they would be doing in that time frame.

In the open-ended comment portion of the study, many of the female respondents noted the dearth of female partners in their offices, as well as the “unspoken motherhood penalty at firms.” These comments, in conjunction with the fact that only 26 percent of the female respondents in the study have children in their household (as compared to 40 percent of male survey respondents) suggest that the differences in the survey responses of male and female associates is more complicated than the personal/home responsibilities of the respondents.

Keywords: woman advocate, litigation, associate, gender, satisfaction, Big Law, law form

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