Are Lawyers Happy: The Statistics

Are Lawyers Happy? The Statistics Don’t Lie

Published on: July 14, 2023
Last Updated: July 14, 2023

Are Lawyers Happy? The Statistics Don’t Lie

Published on: July 14, 2023
Last Updated: July 14, 2023

Lawyers generally get paid a lot of money.

Of course, some do much better financially than others, but that’s true of all professions. 

According to Forbes, the average annual wage for lawyers in the US is $144,230.

Naturally, this is inflated by the high-paid lawyers who defend wealthy clients such as Donald Trump and O.J. Simpson.

In contrast, a first-year associate at a law firm will likely make less than $54,500.

Regardless of how much, or how comparatively little, a lawyer makes, there is no doubt that the job is stressful, extremely challenging, and means long days at the office. 

In short, it seems highly unlikely that the answer to ‘Are lawyers happy?’ could be yes.

Yet, it is possible.

You simply need the right knowledge, attitude, and advice. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most concerning statistics which are likely to affect lawyer happiness. 

Key Statistics

  • 20% of lawyers are dealing with alcohol issues
  • Lawyers rate their happiness as 2.6 out of 5
  • Over 60% of lawyers are happy with their salary
  • Less than 50% of lawyers find their job meaningful
  • 60% of lawyers are happy with their work environment
  • 40% of lawyers feel their abilities aren’t being fully used
  • 8% of lawyers struggle with depression

Lawyer Happiness Statistics: Are Lawyers Happy?

1. 20% Of Lawyers Are Dealing With Alcohol Issues

Alcohol Issues 407

According to an ABA survey 20% of lawyers are currently dealing with alcohol issues.

This is generally defined as having more than five drinks a day.

Drinking may be seen as part of the culture, but this level of drinking suggests a coping mechanism.

It’s not surprising, being a lawyer is stressful. 

In addition, lawyers frequently deal with guilt and question themselves.

This is commonly over whether they acted fairly or if they got an innocent verdict for a guilty person. 

It’s worth noting that the level of alcoholic drinks consumed by the average lawyer is twice the level of the general public’s alcohol consumption.


2. Lawyers Rate Their Happiness As 2.6 Out Of 5

Career Explorer undertakes ongoing studies, allowing them to reach millions of people.

The survey collates responses from people in a variety of professions. 

Respondents are requested to answer specific questions on a scale of 1-5 stars.

The latest survey indicated the average rating on career happiness by lawyers is just 2.6. That means lawyer happiness is in the bottom 7% of all careers. 

Even other law professionals rank better. For example, arbitrators give themselves an impressive 3.5 stars, as do hearing officers.

Even paralegals give themselves 2.7 stars. 

That’s despite a lawyer being the best-paid of all the law careers surveyed. 

(Career Explorer)

3. Over 60% Of Lawyers Are Happy With their Salary

First-year associates don’t earn the best wages. However, these will quickly rise as they move through their careers. 

As mentioned, the average salary for a lawyer is $144,230. If money could buy happiness then that should be enough money.

Approximately 60% of respondents are happy with what they earn and believe they are fairly rewarded for their efforts.

In other words, excessive stress and drinking in lawyers is connected with the role, not the wages. 

(Career Explorer)

4. Less Than 50% Of Lawyers Find Their Job Meaningful

This is potentially one of the most alarming facts and an obvious reason why lawyers turn to drink and other coping devices. 

According to the survey, on average lawyers give a rating of 2.6 when asked if their job is meaningful. 

The survey doesn’t delve deeper.

However, to really identify the issues here it would be necessary to find out whether the issue is the clients they take on, their freedom to act in the way they best see fit, or some other issue. 

What’s certain is most lawyers don’t feel their job is meaningful and that’s something all law firms need to look into. 

(Career Explorer)

5. 60% Of Lawyers Are Happy With Their Work Environment

A little over half of lawyers feel they have a good work environment.

That means a nice office, with all the necessary facilities, and they enjoy dealing with or defending clients. 

What is interesting is that while 60% of lawyers are happy at work, this doesn’t seem to make any difference to career satisfaction levels.

Unfortunately, being happy with the work environment but not the actual work, means many lawyers are constantly questioning their decisions and feeling both unsure and unhappy with their career path.  

(Career Explorer)

6. 40% Of Lawyers Feel Their Abilities Aren’t Being Fully Used

The good news is more lawyers feel all their skills are being used than those that don’t. 

However, 40% of lawyers believe they have additional abilities which could be beneficial to the firm but aren’t currently being used.  

Law firms need to look at their employees and see what skills they have and whether they would be beneficial to use them within the practice. 

The greater the number of lawyers using all their abilities, the easier it is for lawyers to be happy and, therefore, more effective. 

(Career Explorer)

7. 8% Of Lawyers Struggle With Depression


While 20% of lawyers drink excessively, 8% struggle with depression.

The survey doesn’t indicate whether depression is part of the drinking or whether those that are depressed don’t drink. 

What is clear is that 8% of those surveyed have feelings of depression and may have contemplated suicide. 

The reasons for these feelings are similar to why lawyers drink too much, it’s sourced from internal conflicts raised due to their actions on specific cases. 

The number of lawyers that commit suicide is significantly higher than suicide rates in the general population. 

It should be noted that lawyers with alcohol or drug issues don’t generally like to complete surveys or share these facts.

That means the actual number of lawyers struggling with alcohol or drug abuse is likely to be much higher. 


Building Happiness

The good news is that lawyers, along with any other profession, can be happy.

They simply need to take some simple steps toward happiness, as do the law firms they work for. 

Support System

Lawyers are often unable to talk about the cases they are working on. This is because clients have the right to confidentiality. 

Naturally, this can make it hard for lawyers to talk about the stresses of the day.

However, having an adequate support system is essential to help avoid a reliance on alcohol.

Law firms can help by having counseling on-hand and encouraging all staff to talk to them regularly.

If all staff talk to counselors then the stigma of doing so is removed. 

Lawyers can also confide in a trusted friend or loved one. Provided they are certain the information won’t be shared with anyone else. 


A critical part of the support system and boosting lawyer happiness is setting boundaries.

It’s normal to work long hours, especially when building a case with a tight deadline. 

However, whenever possible lawyers need to create a cut-off time and leave the office, along with their work. 

That’s a boundary, creating a balance between life and work.

This is essential to allow everyone to wind down, undertake pastimes they enjoy, and reduce stress levels. 

To help make the most of downtime you can do the following:

List Your Goals, Both Large and Small

Doing so gives you something to aim for and helps you feel like you have a purpose outside of work.

That’s important for people that are driven, lawyers usually are such people. 

Don’t forget, large goals are important but reaching them requires lots of small goals.

Consider Your Interests and What Makes You Happy

If you’re a lawyer you probably have an interest in the law. But, that isn’t the only thing you like.

Take the time to think about what you enjoy doing and then make time for it, whether it’s completing jigsaw puzzles or skydiving out of a plane. 

Join a Club for Your Favorite Hobby

If there is a local club for your preferred hobby activity, then join it.

Not only will it give you dedicated downtime, but you’ll also find doing something you love outside of work very inspiring. 

Socialize with Family and Friends

It’s easy to get caught up in work and avoid making time for friends and family.

However, everyone needs people to talk to and bond with. Don’t rely on opportunities arising.

Instead, create time to socialize.

Your relationships with friends and family, as well as with work, will improve and you may even enjoy yourself. 


Exercise is a great way to stay healthy and reduce stress.

There’s nothing like a good exercise session to make you feel more alive.

All you have to do is choose an exercise that you enjoy, and then commit to doing it regularly. 

Set Your Office Up Properly


Lawyers and other office workers often overlook the importance of setting your office up properly. 

It starts with a good-quality chair.

It should be comfortable and supportive, encouraging you to adopt good posture while working. 

But, your office is more than just your desk and chair.

Consider the view from your office and whether you can rearrange the furniture to create a better view.

Alongside this, add some plants and personal items.

It will help the office feel more comfortable emotionally and physically. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Make Changes

You studied for a long time to get your law degree, but it doesn’t mean you can’t change your career path.

If you hate being a lawyer then consider a change of career.

Remember, there are several different types of lawyers.

For example, you can quit criminal law and still make a good personal injury lawyer. 

Before you make any big change take a moment to consider why you are stressed.

If it’s long term due to the job then a career change is the right idea. 

However, if it is simply to do with a specific case or the law firm where you work, there are other things you can do, such as request help on the case or even change law firms. 

Summing Up

Becoming a lawyer doesn’t mean you will automatically be unhappy. It’s a challenging and stressful environment.

However, if you love the law you’ll simply need to find the niche that suits you best. 

It’s worth noting that studies show new lawyers tend to be unhappier than long-term lawyers.

In other words, it takes time to adjust to being a lawyer and creating the right work-life balance. 

Focus on this and you can be a great and happy lawyer! In other words, you can answer yes to the question ‘Are lawyers happy?’.


Career ExplorerClioReuters

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Written by Jason Wise

Hello! I’m the editor at EarthWeb, with a particular interest in business and technology topics, including social media, privacy, and cryptocurrency. As an experienced editor and researcher, I have a passion for exploring the latest trends and innovations in these fields and sharing my insights with our readers. I also enjoy testing and reviewing products, and you’ll often find my reviews and recommendations on EarthWeb. With a focus on providing informative and engaging content, I am committed to ensuring that EarthWeb remains a leading source of news and analysis in the tech industry.