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Too Much Time at the Office is Keeping Lawyers Up at Night

It's not colleagues, clients or cases that are keeping plaintiff lawyers up at night. The thing that troubles lawyers the most, according to a National Trial Lawyers survey, is spending too much time in the office and not getting enough free time.

Practicing law means skipped dinners, missed family vacations, and widespread burnout, as many attorneys work 60 to 70 hours a week.

It is a “massive, socially unnecessary arms race, wherein lawyers subject each other to torturous amounts of labor just because they can,” wrote Columbia law professor Timothy Wu in The New Yorker.

Top 11 Reasons

In a survey sponsored by The Law Tigers association of motorcycle injury lawyers, plaintiff attorneys were asked: "What keeps you up at night?"

Attorneys could select more than one reason from a list. Sleepless nights are also caused by money, marketing and the 11 following factors:

I spend too much time working / Don't get enough free time: 36.5%
My firm has fluctuating month-to-month fee revenue: 35.1%
My firm is not generating fees at a rate I desire: 32.4%
My marketing doesn't generate enough new business: 32.4%
My firm’s cases are taking too long to conclude: 22.9%
My firm's case load is declining: 21.6%
My firm is handling too many inconsequential cases, resulting in small fees: 21.6%
My firm has unacceptable year-to-year top line revenue: 12.2%
Tort reform and damage caps are hurting my practice: 12.2%
I am unable to dominate a lucrative niche in my market: 8.1%
I don't enjoy my law practice and want a different niche. 8.1%

Law is one of the most fiercely competitive professions, with 1,300,837 attorneys and 34,000 new lawyers graduating from law school each year. This works out to one lawyer per 248 people in the US.

More reasons keeping lawyers up

21.6% of respondents offered their own sleep-depriving grievances:

  • Advertising lawyers who take too many cases based on the money they spend rather than their actual track record/reputation/competence.
  • Fear that at any time in the future cases will stop coming in and the show will be over.
  • Law practice has become a business rather than a profession.
  • The stress and constant conflict of the trial practice take a toll.
  • Technology will make my practice obsolete in the future.

Half of the respondents said they have a general plaintiff personal injury practice, and several listed specialties, including: auto and motorcycle accident: 17.6%, medical malpractice: 15%, trucking accidents: 10.8%, other (35%) including criminal defense.

Attorneys answering the survey expressed an interest in finding a new niche practice, which included:

  • Nursing home abuse: 9%
  • Business tort: 9%
  • Mass torts: 9%
  • Motorcycle accidents: 7.5%

Most of the respondents (75.3%) said their firm annual revenues were less than $2.5 million per year. 11% said revenues were $2.5 to $5 million, 8.2% said it was $5 to $10 million, and only 5.5% said it was more than $15 million. Most of the respondents (75.3%) said their firm annual revenues were less than $2.5 million per year. 11% said revenues were $2.5 to $5 million, 8.2% said it was $5 to $10 million, and only 5.5% said it was more than $15 million.

The respondents practice in small firms, with 56.1% in firms with 2-10 lawyers, 37% with a single attorney, and only 6.75% in firms with 11 or more attorneys.  Law school graduation year ranged from 1968 to 2016. Most practice in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Ohio.

The survey of 75 attorneys was conducted online during August 2017.

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