June 26, 2019

The 2013 Colorado Lawyer Satisfaction And Salary Survey — Part 2: “Lawyers are Stressed, Deal With It”

rhodes(The above headline appeared over one of the Law Week Colorado articles reporting on the 2013 Lawyer Salary & Satisfaction Survey. Click here to read the online summary.)

The Survey’s sample size was 1,000 respondents out of a potential 35,000. Did that sample accurately represent the larger population? We can theorize about the Survey’s methodology, but odds are the respondents spoke for more than just themselves. As Meg Satrom, Law Week Colorado editor, put it, the results “provide a good baseline on what it’s like to practice law in the state.”

That said, how about we shift gears and, instead of focusing on what the survey results tell us about Colorado lawyers, we ask what they tell us about Colorado clients?

If you’re a client of the 1,000 respondents, and probably a larger number of Colorado lawyers, there’s a good chance your lawyer:

  • Is suffering the effects of long-term, chronic stress. 94% of respondents said the law is stressful sometimes (48%), often (37%), or always (9%).
  • Didn’t sleep well last night. Just shy of 2/3’s sometimes (38%) or often (24%) don’t get a good night’s sleep, while 5% never does.
  • Might be sacrificing a personal commitment to make time for you. Roughly 2/3’s said work sometimes (45%) or often (18%) interferes with family.
  • Wouldn’t recommend his or her job to someone else. 61% of respondents would not recommend that somebody go to law school.
  • Feels financially constrained from seeking more satisfying work. 39% said law school debt has a significant effect (32%) or controls (7%) their career choices.

How’s that working for you if you’re that client? Or what if you live with that lawyer? Or what if he or she’s a partner in your firm? Or what if you’re opposing counsel, wondering whatever happened to civility?

True, not all stress is bad: in measured bursts, it energizes us to achieve, drives us to perform. It’s widely accepted, however, that long-term, unabated stress is hard on us – physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, vocationally, socially.

So what do we do about it? As noted above, one of the Law Week Colorado articles carried the headline, “Lawyers are Stressed, Deal With it.” Okay, so we’re dealing with it. We tough it out, treat it as a badge of honor that we can run full blast without all cylinders firing. Besides, we feel like we’re getting by okay – a little gastro-intestinal distress notwithstanding – which probably explains why 67% of respondents don’t get help with stress reduction/ management at work. Who’s got time for that? It’s not that we’re uncaring, we’re just busy people, and good for us because we’re beating the odds.

Until we aren’t. That’s when lawyers’ job stress isn’t just a personal problem. When our profession stresses us to the point where a majority can’t recommend our own jobs, we and the ones who depend on us are in harm’s way.

And the first ones to take the hit are our clients.

To be continued.

Kevin Rhodes is a lawyer in private practice who’s on a mission to help people love their work and their lives. He leads workshops for a variety of audiences, including the CBA’s Solo and Small Firm Section and the Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. You can email Kevin at kevin@rhodeslaw.com.

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  1. […] written before about the ethics of unhappiness (here and here), describing how stressed-out lawyers pose ethical risks, especially when their unhappiness reaches […]

  2. […] personal experience, but if we need more authority on the point, we needn’t look further than the 2013 Colorado Lawyer Satisfaction and Salary Survey, which reported that 94% of respondents said the law is stressful sometimes (48%), often (37%), or […]

  3. […] saw this attitude at work in our midst a couple years back, when two-thirds of the respondents to a Colorado lawyer salary and career satisfaction survey wouldn’t recommend their jobs to someone else, but meanwhile the money was good, and 40% felt […]

  4. […] saw this attitude at work in our midst a couple years back, when two-thirds of the respondents to a Colorado lawyer salary and career satisfaction survey wouldn’t recommend their jobs to someone else, but meanwhile the money was good, and 40% felt […]

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