“Midlevel associates put their noses to the grindstone in 2010, and they didnt like it. While demand for legal services rose, staffing at the biggest firms still lagged behind prerecession levels. As a result, third-, fourth-, and fifth-year associates had their most demanding year since the downturn began, averaging 2,037 billable hours in 2010, compared to 1,957 in 2009. Adding the equivalent of two extra weeks of work may not sound like much, but it marked the highest number of associate billable hours since 2007. That probably helps explain why our survey of 5,361 midlevel associates from 149 law firms showed the average firm composite score declining for the second straight year to the lowest associate satisfaction score since 2004. As one DLA Piper associate told us: “Firms got too lean [after the recession] and consequently realized that associates will work more and more if asked. Quality of life has therefore decreased.”
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