Thought For The Week: “Nothing is inherently and invincibly young except spirit.” George Santayana

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When Women Fought Hard to Fight Back

It is so easy to forget how far women lawyers have come in the law profession in our country today.  They now represent more than 50% of associates in law firms, the percentage of women partners is on the rise, and it is common for women to be members of executive committees and practice leaders.  There is still significant work to do to increase the percentage of women equity partners, but even that Holy Grail has seen some upward movement.  But, on balance, women lawyers have advanced on so many fronts to take their rightful seats at the table.

Here is a story of a woman lawyer, who fought to protect her clients from long-held assumptions surrounding domestic violence and leaned into it in a big way with a style that is still worth emulating.  And no, I am not talking about policies and practices prevalent during Victorian times.  I am talking about policies and practices and prevailing law in the 1970’s when I started practicing law and was referred to as “girl” and “honey” by judges in open court, even Federal judges.

It does not seem so long ago to those of us who lived it.  However, living it and advancing in the profession in spite of it is one matter, but facing it down against all odds to change long-accepted policies, practices, and perceptions is quite another.  Read this story of a woman lawyer, now departed, who leaned into a problem of great magnitude and dire consequences with truth and dignity on her side and changed the perception of how women are entitled to protect themselves and their families against abuse within the very family itself.

Read about Holly Maquigan and thank your lucky stars that she came before you.  I wish I had known her.  Here is her story.

 

 

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Thought For The Week: “Your passions should fit you exactly but your purpose in life should exceed you.” Kevin Kelly

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Happy Holidays!

Wishing you a very happy holiday season.  It is a complicated world these days, and we must celebrate joy where we can find it.

AND I am willing to help you spread the holiday cheer and find the perfect stocking stuffer for the young lawyers in your firms and in your lives.

My new book, New Lawyer Launch:  The Handbook for Young Lawyers (Full Court Press, 2023), is that perfect stocking stuffer.  Full of much-needed information and advice to help young lawyers skip the confusion phase and jump straight into the production phase of private practice, this book is a must-read for mentors as well.

I am joined in this book by an impressive group of contributors, who are still walking the walk and talking the talk.  Among them are managing partners of BigLaw, practice leaders, and representatives of three generation of practitioners. That breadth of knowledge and experience is hard to find in one place, and it is at your fingertips in this exciting new book.

This is the fifth book in my Best Friends at the Bar series.  My goal throughout the series always has been to keep young lawyers from tripping over themselves on the way to their successes.  The pragmatic, down-to-earth advice included in this book will help them do just that.  From introductory information on what it means to be a lawyer, to developing survival and success strategies, to an exploration of all the possibilities within the practice of law, this book has it all — all that law school did not teach!

So stuff those stockings and send the message that you care about the young lawyers in your life and in your firm.  Order now from Amazon Books, where you can view the Table of Contents, read the Foreword and get specific information about the contributors, or order from the publisher’s link on my website at www.bestfriendsatthebar.com.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year!

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Thought For The Week: “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Dolly Parton.

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Enough Already About The Salary Wars

All the buzz this week seems to be about top grossing/top ranked law firms matching each other — and besting one another — in starting salaries for associates and in associate bonuses.  It is all about what Cravath is doing, what Milbank is doing …. and the beat goes on.  Frankly, I am tired of reading about it because it affects so relatively few.

Statistical Research Department has reported that approximately 35,000 law students graduated across the US in 2022.  I think we can assume that approximately the same number graduated in 2023, although that number was not readily apparent from my research.

That is a lot of new law school graduates, and more than 50% of them typically start practice at law firms.  So, let’s say that 17,500 new law graduates are practicing in law firms as I write.  That is still a lot of new associates.

And let’s also say that the top 50 law firms with annual revenues between $6 billion and $1.2 billion are fighting over the top graduates of the most highly ranked law schools in the country.  I guess that, with those annual revenues, they can afford to raise starting salaries to $225,000 — which is exactly what the top firms are doing —- and more if you add the increase in yearly bonuses.

It is obvious from these numbers that there are plenty of top law school performers to go around and service these top law firms.  However, as noted in my blog last week, the important question is whether the law firm managers and executive committee members of those firms understand the consequences of that kind of salary increase in terms of the high price that associates will pay.  Law firms do not give out that kind of money without exacting demands like more billable hours — which, when added to the current billable hour requirements, will likely result in more associates on shrink’s couches demonstrating signs of depression and career choice remorse.   Your guess is as good as mine about how that will affect future recruiting.

And also consider the stress that it puts on second tier law firms trying to compete.
One legal industry expert was quoted on Above The Law today as stating that, while elite firms with high profits will be able to match these compensation increases, others will have a very difficult time doing so.  That is easy to believe when you consider that the following factors — inflation, recession, war, and interest rate hikes —conspired to create a difficult business environment in 2022, and that the profession has not bounced back yet.  Work at the associate level is still down, and it likely will be for awhile.

So, I say enough already.  Let’s hear about something else.  For example, let’s hear about law firm reforms to meet the circumstances of today rather than more about money.  There are a lot of issues to address that affect young lawyers —- even those who do not meet the criteria for these huge salary hikes.  Most of them are very capable with promising futures, and they deserve information that is relevant to them and, like me, they probably are tired of reading about issues affecting only the elite.

 

 

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Thought For The Week: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” Winston Churchill

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Finally, Milbank’s Foul Ball is Called

Salary increases for associates are a competitive sport.  One top law firm moves, and others follow.  Just like lemmings to the sea.

Finally, the foul ball is called, but anonymously.  Nobody wants to own it.  But, at least it is out there, and attention should be paid.  Salary increases have repercussions, and associate lawyers in BigLaw do not need more  pressure on them just to satisfy egos that feast on being the biggest and the best.

Here is the comment, as reported by Above the Law recently.

 All we’re doing is continuing to put targets on these kids’ backs. Increasing salaries…causes them to increase salaries up the chain [and] increase billable hours for them. I just think they’re taking this pound of flesh out of them.”

Yes, top management needs to pay attention to what they are doing and how their actions impact the most vulnerable.

 

 

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