Young lawyers have never been paid more and been less satisfied with their careers. Studies done by the ABA, state bar associations and other groups since the mid-80s have noted a sharp decrease in the percentage of lawyers who were satisfied with their professional lives .Twenty to thirty percent (20% – 30%) of the lawyers surveyed are extremely dissatisfied. 
A study by the North Carolina Bar Association done in 1991 reflects that 23.6% of the attorneys would not become attorneys again and only 53.9% of the attorneys surveyed desired to remain in law practice for the remainder of their careers. Over 24% of the attorneys reported having symptoms of depression and more than 25% had anxiety symptoms. Twenty-two percent (22%) had been diagnosed as having ulcers, coronary artery disease, hypertension or other stress related disease. Forty-three percent (43%) agreed that the demands of work do not allow them to have enough time for satisfying life outside of work. 
What is the cause of the growing dissatisfaction? Some of it is simply a misconception by law students and law school aspirants about what it means to be a lawyer. Some go to law school simply because they do not know what they want to do or they have been pushed to do so by a well meaning relative. 
Practicing law today is more stressful than in the past. First, the high salaries create pressure on reaching billable hour minimums and in some cases the young lawyers have little control over whether their practice group will have enough work for them to do. Many older lawyers believe we have lost the professionalism and collegiality that was a big part of our day-to-day dealings with other lawyers in the past. Clients have merged or consolidated while the number of lawyers has dramatically increased. That creates intense competition among firms and lawyers. Because of billable hour pressures on both partners and associates, lawyers do not take the time for training, shadowing and mentoring that we did in the past. 
Even when firm leaders encourage training, shadowing and mentoring for associates, practice group leaders or supervising lawyers have undermined it. What should law firms do about this problem? 
When I was responsible for attorney development at Jenkens & Gilchrist, I decided we would focus our attorney training and development program on career development rather than just focusing on skill development. Each young lawyer has unique talents, weaknesses and career and life dreams. I wanted our lawyers to take responsibility for their careers, figure out what they want and what training would help them achieve it, set goals, develop a career plan and execute the plan. 
I worked with senior lawyers to encourage them to help associates define what represents success for them. I spoke at our shareholders’ retreat on the importance of our attorney development program and how it would ultimately increase our profitability. 
I conducted Career Development Workshops in each of our offices and shared with our associates what I had done and what I learned in my own career. I worked hard to build our associates’ trust. I offered to help any of our associates prepare their Career Development Plan and set goals. 
Yesterday I received a call from the former chairman of the Jenkens Associate Committee. I had not heard from him in months. I could tell from the call he was excited and had something to share with me. It turns out he has landed his first big client. He also shared with me that he is totally in the zone working now and that as a result he no longer focuses on billable hours and yet he is billing more hours than before. He and his wife had a baby last year and he thanked me for getting him to focus and spend his time more wisely, so he has more time to spend with his wife and son. 
A firm cannot motivate the unmotivated, but focusing on attorney development on an individual basis can make a big difference to the substantial number of lawyers who want to become better lawyers and make a difference for their clients.