3 in 4 US Lawyers Feel Like Harvey Specter

A poll of US and UK lawyers reveals attitudes about the ‘human’ element of the profession. Most respondents saidf their work-life balance was good, posisbly on a par with Harvey Specter, the fictional protagonist and lawyer from USA Network’s popular show Suits.

Intapp, a leading provider of business applications for professional services firms, recently announced new results from its research into the experiences and attitudes of lawyers across the UK and US The research discovered that US lawyers are mostly satisfied with their work-life balance, with almost three-fourths of respondents saying their work-life balance was either somewhat good (38%) or very good (35%).

This high work-life balance score contrasts sharply with the opposite view, which showed only 14% of US lawyers saying that work-life balance was either somewhat or very bad.

The survey, conducted in partnership with YouGov, polled 258 lawyers at firms with 50+ employees: 133 in the US and 125 in the UK It looked at many elements related to being a lawyer, including the “cultural” and “human” factors that are highlighted in this release. Technology-focused attitudes from this survey are highlighted in this recent release.

At a high level, the survey showed how much lawyers recognize the importance of their working environment. Among the US lawyers polled, when asked for the top three most important factors of their working environment, the majority mentioned the people they work with/for (57%) and the nature of the work (56%). Coming in just after those leading factors were work hours (43%, job security (39%) and compensation (38%).

Digging a bit deeper into the details of what US lawyers say about their line of work, more than two-thirds – 69% – are not considering a career change. Of the remaining 31% who are, the breakdown varied widely, with the highest-ranking choices coming in as follows:

  • Move to a situation where I can practice a different area of law: 39%
  • Other: 29%
  • Become a professor: 17%
  • Move to a different in-house company/department: 17%
  • Move to a law firm: 17%
  • Move to a different law firm: 15%
  • Go in-house: 15%
  • Move to a judicial position: 15%
  • Become an author: 15%

Being a lawyer does not always mean high-value work according to most US respondents. In fact, 35% said that they are doing more administrative tasks in their current line of work than they expected and 32% said they’re doing more routine work than they expected. The breakdown actually skewed higher among biglaw attorneys than non-biglaw, with 41% of biglaw respondents said they’re doing more admin work than expected (vs. 27% for non-biglaw) and 34% doing more routine work than expected (vs. 29% for non-biglaw).

On the other end of the spectrum, however, a similar percentage of all respondents – 26% – said nothing has surprised them in their current line of work. Non-biglaw skewed higher here with 32% saying nothing has surprised them versus 21% for biglaw.

When asked for their top three reasons for becoming a lawyer, US respondents ranked working in an intellectually stimulating environment highest at 58%. That was followed by: doing rewarding work (50%); having a dependable career (43%); good compensation (38%); helping clients solve problems and achieve their goals (36%); and contributing to social justice (32%). Well below these choices were the more bottom line and status reasons such as: to enjoy the prestige (5%); to be part of an elite group (2%); and to become a partner (2%).

“Much is written and said about the business of law firms, but far less pertains to the human and work culture elements. So obtaining insight into those areas was one of the primary goals with commissioning this survey,” said Dan Tacone, Intapp’s president. “What we’ve seen in the industry is that forward-thinking firms factor in the elements that the survey shows are most important to lawyers with regard to their work-life balance, working environment, career ambitions and other personal aspects of being a lawyer.”

Ralph Baxter, a leading advisor to law firms and legal technology companies, and former long-time Orrick chairman, said: “The legal service industry has never been more dynamic than it is today, with changing client demands and increasing competition requiring firms to find ways to serve clients better, faster, and cheaper. The key to success is to modernize: to embrace contemporary ideas and tools to create a better experience for clients. The survey results provide very valuable benchmarks to help firms evaluate their strategies for modernization.”

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