Recent survey results on morale busters that also have an upside

InsideCounsel, May 2008 at 61, surveyed its readers on career satisfaction. A previous post comments on the methodology of the survey and a second one on vacation hours (See my posts of May 11, 2008 [two].). In one part of the survey, respondents chose from a list of 11 MOST rewarding parts of working in-house and another list of 11 LEAST rewarding parts.

Three aspects of work appear only on the least rewarding list. Those morale busters are “managing a budget,” “my supervisor,” and “dealing with outside counsel.” Each aspect deserves a moment of reflection.

As to budgets, it is unclear whether the list selection refers to internal budgets of a department, to budgets of law firms on specific matters, or to both. Many corporate counsel have no budget responsibility so those who do must have clobbered that task as onerous. It came in 3rd of 11 (10.6% chose it). Lawyers in companies dislike budgets because they are hard to prepare, time-consuming, conflict provoking, sometimes perceived as pointless, and disagreeable constraints or pressure.

As to “my supervisor,” an earlier item on this blog has commented generally on the effect of supervisors on employee engagement (See my post of May 29, 2008: employee engagement and bosses.). That particular downer came in 5th of 11 (5.9%).

That “dealing with outside counsel” bums out some in-house counsel (7th on the list at 4.0%) puzzles me. Quality of life within a legal department is partly a function of being able to offload work to outside counsel. Outside counsel help relieve the burden of work, take on responsibility for some tough calls, train, and often become friends and teammates (See my posts of May 1, 2005: partnering; and Dec. 16, 2005: complacency among entrenched firms.). Yet no choice for the plus side of outside counsel was on the other side of the ledger. Maybe the negative aura of “dealing with outside counsel” has to do with quarrels over bills, disappointments in the quality of firms’ work, bad attitudes of outside lawyers, or having to ride herd on unruly partners.

Hence, two of the three least rewarding aspects of in-house life also have positive characteristics

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