One out of five seventh-year US lawyers work in-house, and most are very satisfied with career

Data recently appeared about corporate counsel in a large, longitudinal study by a team at the American Bar Foundation (ABF). The study, cited in Researching the Law, Vol. 20, Spring 2009 at 1, started with surveys in 2002of a representative sample of over 4,000 lawyers. Five years later, over 70 percent of the first cohort took part in a second survey, in addition to 26 percent of a similar group of lawyers who had not been surveyed the first year. The results of the second survey are weighted to be nationally representative.

In 2002, two years out of law school, 4.2 percent of the survey respondents who were practicing law were working in corporate legal departments. By 2007, that number had quintupled to 19 percent. In other words, in this large sample of recent US law graduates, by their seventh year of practice almost one in five had become an in-house attorney.

And they were happy. The study broke the respondents into 14 practice settings, such as six sizes of private firms, three government settings, etc. The percentage of women who said they were extremely to moderately satisfied with their career (161 respondents) was highest, at 87.4 percent, in “Business – Inside Counsel.” For men (184 respondents), the career satisfaction rating was 77.9 percent, which ranked about mid-way among the practice settings, but above all the private firm ratings.

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