July 15, 2003 Managing Editor Regular News TV advertising dilutes public confidence in the profession TV advertising dilutes public confidence in the profession New Bar survey also finds lawyers are earning more and are satisfied with their careers Mark D. Killian Managing EditorEven during this sluggish economy, Florida lawyers continue to see their earnings grow and are generally satisfied with their careers. Yet a vast majority of lawyers say the public does not have confidence in the legal system and that lawyer advertising — particularly on TV — reinforces the public’s negative impression of lawyers.Those findings were among the conclusions drawn from a new survey conducted by the Bar’s Research, Planning and Evaluation Department.Two-thirds of the polled lawyers (66 percent) rate The Florida Bar as either an excellent or good advocate for the legal profession. The 2003 results reveal a slight decrease in the percentage of excellent/good ratings from 2001; however, the 2003 ratings are still well above the ratings received from 1993-1997, but is down from the all-time high of 72 percent in 1999.More than three-quarters (76 percent) of lawyers responding to the Bar’s 2003 Membership Opinion Survey also said the Bar is a “supportive and cohesive organization that is interested in the well-being of its members” and 85 percent said the Bar promotes high standards of ethics and competence. The survey found the professionalism program and efforts top the list as to why members have a more positive outlook of the Bar over the past two years.Seventy-three percent of those surveyed, however, still say the public does not have confidence in the legal system.Those surveyed also shared their opinions on judicial competence and fitness. And the survey provides some information on how lawyers are doing financially, although the income data collected is not as comprehensive as is gathered every other year in the Bar’s Law Office Management and Economic surveys.When asked what will have the greatest impact on the profession over the next 10 years, the most often cited responses were computer technology/Internet, an over saturation of lawyers, and changes to the tort laws.The Membership Opinion Survey was mailed to 2,744 randomly selected Bar members in April. the May 15 deadline, 33 percent of the surveys had been returned. Bar senior analyst Mike Garcia said the results of the survey are statistically valid and the margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent at the 95-percent level of confidence. IncomeThe median income for those polled was $95,000, up from $85,000 two years ago.“Just over two-fifths – or 41 percent – of all respondents earned more than $100,000 before taxes from legal work in 2002,” Garcia said.Here’s a breakdown of median salaries of the respondents:• Partners/shareholders, $150,000.• Managing partners, $150,000.• Judges, $130,000.• Lawyers with one or more associates, $110,000.• Corporate counsel, $100,000.• Federal government attorneys, $95,000.• Sole practitioner, $90,000.• Local government attorney, $85,000.• Associates, $73,000.• State government attorney, $60,000.• Legal aid/legal service lawyers, $45,000.The median income for private practice lawyers was $100,000 in 2002, while government lawyers reported a median income of $70,000. AdvertisingThe study found 86 percent of those surveyed believe lawyer advertising negatively affects the public’s view of lawyers and the legal profession, including 80 percent of respondents whose firms advertise.Only 7 percent said lawyer advertising has a favorable effect on the public’s view of lawyers.Just under two-third’s (64 percent) of all respondents believe that television advertising has the most negative impact on the public’s perception of the profession. Billboard advertising (14 percent) and direct mail (11 percent) were also mentioned with some frequency as being the most negative form of advertising.Fifty-seven percent of all respondents believe the current restrictions of lawyer advertising in Florida are too liberal, while 34 percent believe thay are balanced. The Bar as an AdvocateAsked about the Bar as an advocate for the legal profession, 66 percent of respondents rate the Bar as excellent or good, down from 68 percent in 2001, but still up from 53 percent in 1997 and 41 percent in 1995. Nineteen percent gave the Bar an excellent rating, 47 percent good, 25 percent fair, and 9 percent poor.Although a vast majority of the members think the Bar is doing a good job as an advocate for the profession, the survey found 73 percent of lawyers think the public does not have confidence in the existing legal system. Career SatisfactionThe survey also found 72 percent of respondents are either “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their legal careers, and only 7 percent say they are “very unsatisfied” with their careers.On a rating scale of one to four (one being very satisfied and four very unsatisfied) judges report the most job satisfaction, while lawyers with one or more associates report the least satisfaction. Judges weighed in with an average score of 1.77; followed by managing partners, 1.81; corporate counsel, 1.90; partner/shareholder, 1.94; federal government lawyers, 1.96; legal aid lawyers, 2.00; local government lawyers, 2.03; sole practitioners, 2.11; state government lawyers, 2.22; associates, 2.29; and lawyers with one or more associates, 2.33.The survey found no significant difference between men and women respondents on the rating of their satisfaction with their careers. The survey, however, showed lawyers over the age of 50 are more satisfied with their jobs than younger lawyers. Also, Hispanic lawyers reported being more satisfied with their careers (2.01) than whites (2.08) and blacks (2.22).The most frequently mentioned reasons for career dissatisfaction are job burnout (26 percent), personal stress (19 percent), salary (19 percent), and hours required at the office (15 percent), according to Garcia.“For those respondents who list ‘salary’ as the primary source of career dissatisfaction, their median salary for 2002 was $70,000 and one-fifth of those respondents earned $100,000 or more,” Garcia said. “For those who listed ‘job burnout’ or ‘hours required at office,’ 70 percent took two weeks or less of vacation in 2002.”Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they have too much business, while 42 percent report they have just the right amount of business. Twenty-six percent said they could use some more work, and 4 percent say they are not busy at all. Garcia said almost half of all sole practitioners surveyed (47 percent) report that they could either use some more business or that they were not busy. Important IssuesGarcia said 55 percent of all respondents report that improving the public’s perception of lawyers and the legal profession is one the most important issues for the Bar to address in the next few years. Increasing professionalism efforts (45 percent) and being more of an advocate for the small firm/solo practitioners (37 percent) were the other two most frequently mentioned issues, the same as they were two years ago. Other issues cited by respondents include implementing tougher standards on lawyer advertising (32 percent — up from 26 percent two years ago); be more aggressive with UPL enforcement (24 percent); amend the rules to allow for multi-jurisdictional practice (19 percent); and focus more on public protection (14 percent).Half of all respondents report that poor public perception of lawyers (50 percent) and lack of ethics and professionalism (44 percent) are some of the most serious issues facing the profession today. Just over one-third listed too many lawyers (36 percent), and frivolous lawsuits (36 percent) as serious problems. JudgesFourteen percent of respondents rate the competency and fitness of judges in their region as excellent and 50 percent rate them as good. Another 28 percent rate their region’s judges as fair, and 8 percent rate them as poor. These results are almost identical to responses from two years ago.There is a significant difference across counties and regions of the state on the opinion of the competence and fitness of judges. Garcia said a much higher percentage of respondents from the northern parts of the state rate the competence and fitness of their judiciary as either excellent or good (81 percent); compared with 64 percent in the central and southwest portions of the state and 58 percent in the southeast. Copies of the 2003 Membership Opinion Survey are available from the Research, Planning and Evaluation Department for $25, plus local sales tax, from Bar Senior Planning Analyst Mike Garcia at 651 East Jefferson St., Tallahassee 32399-2300.