Survey Reveals the Unhappiest Associates

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The most unhappy people in the nation’s top law firms are minority female midlevel associates, according to an American Lawyer survey.

Women of color express less satisfaction and encounter more obstacles, according to an article on the Minority Experience Survey in the Minority Law Journal.

More minority female midlevels were actively looking for a new job—13.5 percent—than any other group.

Minority female midlevels gave their firms lower grades in almost every category, including quality of work, interest level of work, satisfaction with work and professional development, the law journal says. Many used the written comments to elaborate. One woman said she felt “shut out” from good work and growth opportunities. Another said “feedback is rare.”

The ABA Commission on Women in the Profession found a similarly bleak picture for minority women in its report, Visible Invisibility: Women of Color in Law Firms. The study concluded that women of color are leaving large law firm practices in droves because they are the victims of an uninterrupted cycle of institutional discrimination, the ABA Journal reported in an August 2006 feature article.

The Minority Law Journal says the Minority Experience Survey indicates that law firms should focus on “a great, untapped opportunity” to gain by focusing more on female associates of color.

“One of the biggest areas for improvement, according to our survey, lies with the assignment and evaluation system,” the article says. “If firms can ensure that female minority lawyers have access to the same high-quality work that their male peers do, and the same kind of informal, one-to-one feedback at the end of each assignment, they may go a long way toward eliminating one of the biggest causes of dissatisfaction among the minority women in their associate ranks.”

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