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November 8, 2012

This Just In: An Extremely Factual* Study of the WSBA Membership Study

by WSBA

*By which we mean “completely made up.”

As you may know, earlier this year WSBA released the results of its comprehensive membership study. A summary and the complete report are available to members and the public. The findings were eye-opening in many respects. For example, the study showed that pretty much everybody is planning to retire or just plain quit practicing law as soon as they can. OK, I’m exaggerating, but not all that much. Seriously, nearly 60% of current WSBA members are considering retirement, reducing their practices, or otherwise leaving the profession within the next five years.

I encourage you to read the report, which is truly fascinating. But for those of you who don’t have time to devour the whole thing, I have selected some of the more notable findings that have not been widely discussed:

  • The number of recent law school graduates who have yet to find full-time employment practicing law remains at historically high levels. 20% of recent graduates are working as baristas, bartenders, or Pilates instructors, mostly in Belltown.
  • Of the recent law school graduates who are practicing law full-time, 90% report that working as a barista, bartender, or Pilates instructor is starting to look pretty good right about now.
  • When asked what motivates WSBA members to continue practicing law, the most common response among those under 35 years old was, “Are you kidding me? I have $100,000 in student loans to pay off.” The most common response among those 35 and over was, “Are you kidding me? I’m going to need $100,000 to get my kids through college in a few years.”
  • 79% of WSBA members are 40 or more years of age, making this the bar’s largest diversity group. Members in this category reported the following as their greatest areas of concern: 1) finding work/life balance, 2) finding the restroom, 3) finding the volume control on their smartphones, and 4) finding a TV station that still shows Matlock.
  • 72% of WSBA members reside in Western Washington, 10% reside in Central and Eastern Washington, and 18% reside outside the state. Among the Western Washington lawyers, 75% were unaware that the state extended eastward beyond the Cascade Mountains and had assumed “Eastern Washington” referred to Washington, D.C.
  • Among WSBA members who identified themselves as civil litigators, 95% reported that they were “just on my way to court” and unavailable to answer the remaining questions. 85% of those respondents promised that their assistants would follow up on the questions right away. 5% of them did so.
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