Taking Loneliness Out of the Legal Profession

When you were in law school, did you think you would be joining a lonely profession? Of course not!

However, according to a new study from UCLA, the practice of law is now the loneliest profession in the country.

In fact, 6 of 10 lawyers ranked above-average on the UCLA researchers’ loneliness scale. Lawyers outpaced other professions in their affirmative responses to statements such as: “I have nobody to talk to, “I feel left out,” “No one really knows we well,” and “I feel isolated from others.” It is striking that, for a profession focused on partnership, we rank at the top of the loneliness spectrum.

This study is especially troubling news for law firms wishing to connect with the youngest generation of attorneys. Millennials overwhelmingly rank the social aspects of work—that is, the relationships built with colleagues—as one of the most important aspects of their profession. If Millennials feel “lonely” at the workplace, their motivation wanes along with their commitment to the firm.

The good news, however, is that law firms can reverse this trend by emphasizing the relationship aspect of practicing law. Forward-thinking law firms across the country are deploying strategies to tap into the collaborative working styles of Millennials (and fighting the scourge of loneliness in our profession), by:

  • Creating “lounge-brariers,” or hybrid lounge-libraries, where associates can work and socialize together.
  • Promoting “neighborhoods” within firms where members of a practice group can gather and get to know each other.
  • Keeping individual office doors open to allow for the free exchange of ideas and to foster a sense of openness throughout the firm.
  • Championing teamwork over individual performance by recognizing the critical roles played by partners, associates, paralegals, and administrative staff alike.

Our profession does not have to be a lonely one. To the contrary, we can work together to promote a lively and vibrant law firm culture marked by a sense of belonging and togetherness. Eradicating high levels of loneliness from our profession is not just common sense; it's also good business for law firms seeking an inspired and committed group of Millennial attorneys.