Thought For The Week: “I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” Louisa May Alcott
Have you ever wondered why women lawyers leave law firm jobs? It is written about a lot, and sometimes over-inflated statistics accompany those articles. It also is often reported that women lawyers leave their jobs because they prefer to stay at home with their children. But is that correct, or do women lawyers leave law firm jobs because of the failures of law firm policies to address their challenges?
It is an interesting question, and my interaction with young women lawyers leads me to believe that they enjoy working. The problem is that law firms still need a lot of help understanding the challenges for young women lawyers and how to address those challenges as incentives for women to stay on those jobs. I have written a lot about that in my work at Best Friends at the Bar, including on this Blog, and I know how complicated it can be.
Here is a recent article that addresses the issues to help you decide how you would answer the question: Why do women lawyers leave their law firm jobs?
Thought For The Week: “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” Maya Angelou
Ah, the age of technology. There are so many “aids” out there in the ether to make the lives of legal practitioners easier, and it is so hard to keep up. One of those new wave programs in particular caught my eye this week. Lawnext.com has a new legal dashboard program that gives law firm partners a “snapshot view” of all activity across matters and associates.
Sounds promising and efficient, doesn’t it? Associates and partners in constant, on-demand contact re legal matters, schedules, etc, including how busy associates are. It all boils down to numbers, and there is no personal contact to get in the way of all that efficiency. AND the presumption could be that it benefits associates to make sure that they are busy, as partners know they want to be.
Is that the way it sounds to you? Cuz it sounds a little too Big Brother to me. It sounds a little too intrusive with the potential to promote insecurity and competition. But, then, I admit to have started out in practice before computers managed EVERYTHING. Before people in adjoining offices e-mailed each other instead of speaking. Before texting was a form of professional communication. Before computers tracked when lawyers were actively engaged in work. And, as a lawyer, writer and communicator, there are some things about the good old days that I miss —- as well as a lot that I do not.
Although I understand progress, I also understand the importance of human elements in personal service industries. I understand how critical it is to experience your audience in a personal way and evaluate your performance based on how you are being perceived and received. I particularly understand how such personal evaluation relates to the ability to engage new clients and new matters and be persuasive in the courtroom and the boardroom.
So, are we throwing some of the babies out with the bathwater with this new-age approach? Make up your own mind.
Maybe the most obvious Artificial Intelligence is not all you have to worry about.
Thought For The Week: “If you hear a voice within you saying, ‘You are not a painter’, then by all means paint … and that voice will be silenced.” Vincent van Gogh
Matching top salaries, as traditionally established by Cravath, sounds like a good idea for entry level lawyers. Although being able to demand top salaries makes some aspects of life easier and has a real “feel good” benefit, there is also a “be careful what you wish for” perspective. As you will see from the comments below, which appeared in the American Lawyer, there is risk to a keeping up with the Joneses strategy. In an attempt to match the competition, some firms with less desirable profit pictures will end up hiring too many associates at top salaries and soon after laying off some of those new hires by necessity to stay in the black.
Think of it this way. If you buy a fancy car you cannot afford, it is fun to look at and have parked in your driveway. But if you are not able to fill it up with gas or pay for maintenance, you end up selling the car.
Here is what one contributor to the American Lawyer had to say:
You’ve got a lot of firms out there that from an image perspective believe they have to match the Cravath scale or at least get very close but they don’t generate the profit margins that those firms do.
By overpaying their associates, they have to literally just lay those associates off.
— Michael Heller, CEO of Cozen O’Connor, in comments given to the American Lawyer, on what may be causing at least some of the layoffs among Biglaw firms.
This is an interesting caveat for firm managers but also for entry-level lawyers. Be careful what you wish for.
Thought For The Week: “And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.” John Steinbeck
This heading is the title of a recent article on Above the Law. It is a full-blown discussion with multiple sources. It is written by an experienced lawyer and includes a variety of opinions.
Maybe you think that you do not need advice about drinking at professional events. It is easy to throw away things that looks too basic, but that is not always a good idea. The basics are often the building blocks of success.
So, take a look at the debate. See where you fall in the “to drink or not to drink alcohol at professional functions” discussion. Think back over your recent experience as law clerk, summer associate, associate or young partner. Think back over the recent July 4th firm-sponsored event, and review your behavior. Were you pleased or disappointed with it the next day? Have you suffered replays of it from colleagues since? How might that change your behavior the next time?
I have not forgotten my days as a young lawyer and the temptations that existed in the law firm social environment. I also remember bad decisions by many law firm members which followed them for years. Upon reflection, I am confident that the best position in the debate revolves around responsible behavior. It is not really a strict choice between “to drink or not to drink”, but, rather, how to drink responsibly in a particular setting.
A similar discussion is included in my new book, New Lawyer Launch: The Handbook for Young Lawyers (Full Court Press, 2022). Here’s how my contributors and I address the issue there:
Avoid trouble. As one of my contributors points out, don’t try to be the life of the party at work events. Another contributor reminds you to be careful how much alcohol you drink at work events, including office lunches, dinners and parties. Drinking alcohol in excess can create big problems, and there are plenty of career-defining stories to back that up. Every lawyer knows at least one of those stories, and most lawyers love to tell those stories over and over and over again. Those episodes are very hard to escape.
Be appropriate in every way, and do not try too hard to be one of the cool people. Just be yourself — the best version of yourself.
Too conservative for you? Maybe. But I will take conservative behavior over unwise risk-taking any day —- especially where careers hang in the balance.