The Mississippi Bar issued the results of its 2016 economic survey last week. You can review the complete survey results here. You can review results from surveys in 2014, 2012, and 2010 here.

You can read my blog post on the 2014 survey here. It appears notable trends from 2014 continue.

419 attorneys responded to the survey. I consider this a decent sample size, but note that the attorneys who take the time to respond to something like this are probably more engaged than average. You should remember that when viewing some of the results.

Here are some results that I found interesting:

  • 47.2% believe professionalism among lawyers has decreased in past 5 years (same as 2014).
  • personal income dropped from $141,768 to $126,553. The 2014 survey reflected a drop from $159,612.
  • secretary salaries dropped about 10%.
  • legal assistant salaries barely dropped.
  • 82% have enough or too much work.
  • 33.8% expect demand to decrease in next 5 years.
  • 29.4% get no or too little satisfaction from practicing.
  • 41.5% would not become a lawyer again.
  • only 24.6% perceive the economic future for their law practice as worse.

My Take:

I disagree that professionalism decreased in the past 5 years. It seems about the same, perhaps even improved. Professionalism took a hit when everyone started using email in the late 90’s. Attorneys were trigger happy in firing off scathing emails and didn’t appreciate the tone of their emails. That’s gotten a lot better.

In the last four years personal income has dropped nearly 30% from $159,612 to $126,553. Uh, that’s a lot.

Legal assistant salaries are probably holding steady because good legal assistants are hard to replace.

82% of attorneys having enough or too much work doesn’t match with what attorneys tell me ‘on the street’ or what I perceive in the market in hiring and firm size.

I suspect the percent of attorneys who get little or no satisfaction from practicing would be higher in attorneys who didn’t respond to the survey.

41.5% saying they wouldn’t become attorneys again is notable. If every attorney in Mississippi responded to the survey, I suspect the number would be over 50%.

My question is when did this become the trend? My estimate is after 2000. I read something in the book The Chickenshit Club about the profession starting to change in the 1980’s (if my recollection is correct) with more of a focus on making money and less on professionalism and service.

The actual percent of attorneys who have a worse future economic outlook is a lot higher than 24.6%. It’s probably higher than 75%. Personal income is down 30% in four years, but the future economic future will be the same or better? In an industry that is shrinking overall and concentrating in areas outside Mississippi? In a state that is losing population?

Sorry, but the future economic outlook for law practices in Mississippi is worse. This means you.

This reminds me of the first year of law school when almost everyone thought they would finish in the top 10%. 90% were wrong. Most people think they are different. But most people are not different.

I try to be a realist. A law volume solo litigation practice like mine is an endangered species. There are much fewer of us around than there were when I left big law in 2002 and the numbers are still shrinking. My perception of the future economic outlook of my law practice is worse. I hope I’m wrong–but that’s an honest assessment of the odds.

The fact more attorneys are not pessimistic about their economic future says something about human nature.