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Julie Brush, Solutus founding partner

The topic of unhappy law firm associates seems to be popular these days. The discussion often involves the values of the Millennial generation and how these values clash with the fundamental nature of how law firms operate—and the people who run them. But is this the whole story? Or are there other factors that come into the mix of disillusionment? How can an incoming freshman increase his enjoyment of what’s to come?

Unlike business school, gaining admission to law school does not require a compelling reason as to what drives a person to be a lawyer. It can come into play if there’s a photo finish among applicants, but for the most part—it’s the hard numbers that rule. So many law students choose law school because it either gives them direction or they have a misperception of what practicing law is really all about. For some, Perry Mason, The Good Wife, L.A. Law, The O.J. Simpson trial, or a secure and lucrative profession have served as sources of inspiration. Others may have more defined purposes, but their expectations of what they will … or should do as a young lawyer are not aligned with the reality. And therein lies the other critical factor outside the generation gap that contributes to law firm associate unhappiness: Misaligned Expectations. From the get-go, many aspiring lawyers misunderstand the purpose of being a young lawyer, what they can expect and what will be expected of them.

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