Our Founder, Paula Davis-Laack, spent seven years as a commercial real estate attorney, and understands the pressures attorneys and those who work in the legal profession face on a daily basis.
Lawyers help people from all walks of life manage tough situations. Lawyers need to be at the top of their game in order to effectively manage the resulting stress. They also need to be able to communicate effectively with their clients, colleagues, staff and families. Burnout makes lawyers less effective in all of their roles, and this can negatively impact not only work life but also home life.
Women in the Law
While men and women have been entering law schools and law firms as first year associates in roughly equal numbers, the number of women making it to the highest levels of partnership has remained static – and really low. As of 2012, approximately 45% of incoming associates were female, yet the number of female equity partners is about 15%. What’s also troubling is that the percentages of women equity partners and women associates in the typical law firm have actually declined slightly in the past two years.
While many reasons for this leaky pipeline have been discussed over the decades, one issue rarely discussed is job burnout. There has been very little written about burnout and women lawyers, both in terms of mainstream articles and empirical research. Our Institute hopes to change that.
The Legal Profession is Changing
The legal profession is changing, particularly at the large law firm level. Clients are finding different sources of providers, they are requiring firms to unbundle services, some projects are being off-shored to other countries, companies are figuring out how to use their own resources to solve problems and manage issues, and clients are requiring creativity in fee structure, including things like discounts and alternative fee arrangements.
Change Has Consequences
The biggest effect of change is uncertainty, and when people are unsure, they ask the question, “What does this mean for me?” When there is no answer, you see:
- Less teamwork
- Low morale
- Higher attrition
- Less communication and open sharing of information
- Increase in stress
- Increase in errors of omission
In fact, attorney liability insurance provider, ALAS, reported that in the last six years, claims due to lawyer mistakes accounted for approximately 15% of total claims; most recently, that number has jumped to 63%.
Dr. Larry Richard, a former practicing attorney and organizational development psychologist, has studied lawyer personality for decades. His research reveals that lawyers are outliers in the following personality traits:
Optimistic thinking and developing high-quality connections with others drive resilience and inoculate high-achievers against burnout; however, extremely high skepticism combined with extremely low sociability make it hard for lawyers to take full advantage of these benefits.
Reference for Women in Law Section:
Flom, B.M. (October 2012). Report of the Seventh Annual NAWL National Survey on Retention and Promotion of Women in Law Firms.