OCI is Not the Only Show in Town Any More. Meet PRECRUITMENT.

Something new is in the works when it comes to law school recruitment.  For law students who have relied on “On Campus Interviews”, there is now an option in the works.  Maybe  we  all should have seen it coming during uncertain times for law firms as the economy remains uncertain.  Hiring is down, but there is still a demand for top talent.

The following two articles are instructive.  This article  is an important harbinger for all law students seeking summer positions in Big Law and presents the concept of “prerecruiting, and this article is an update on summer associate positions, which turn out to be less of a guarantee of permanent hire after graduation.

The new “Precruiting” scheme seems like a power play from firms under the guise of allowing law students to lock in summer positions early and have more time to concentrate on their studies.  How benevolent.  I guess it has nothing to do with competition and wanting to “one up” other firms participating in traditional On Campus Interviews.

Although I understand the constraints that law firms are experiencing, I still value not using law students as pieces on a chess board.  It seems to me to be a bit disingenuous to pretend to care about the well-being of potential hires in the beginning and then throw them to the side at the end.

Decide for yourself.  And plan accordingly.

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What’s Happening With RTO and Hybrid Work At Law Firms?

As pointed out in one of the sources below, September marks a kind of reset for law practice.  More relaxed summer schedules are behind, and it is “back to work.”  But, what is that likely to look like this particular September?  The quote below, from Above the Law, gives us one perspective from a law firm consultant and should give law firm management some degree of pause.

Law firms are different from other businesses—they just are. Lawyers don’t want to be told what to do and when to do it.

We are professionals. We know that if we want to be in that office with our colleagues then that office is doing a good job.

[A]nything that is an unnecessary order can create resentment.

— Law firm consultant Alexa Ross, in comments given to the American Lawyer on the concept of “core” hours within law firms operating with hybrid work policies. Lawyers should “look forward” to coming to the office, she said, rather than being required to do so. “That increases productivity tremendously,” Ross said, “it also decreases attrition.”

And the following article adds insight into the responsibility of law firm managements in meeting the challenges of changing times after the pandemic upended much of what law firm managements believed in.

Captioned as “Did Labor Day Make A Difference For The Legal Profession?”, the article explores how the pandemic changed how work was accomplished, the meaning of “hybrid work”, and how law firms of the future are going to be different, including the impact of AI, and recommendations for management on dealing with the reluctance of lawyers to return to the office and the importance of the impact on productivity and how that impacts the various players.

One of the concepts addressed, “Colleague Connect”, is not on my list of favored methodologies.  A little too Big Brother for me!  I think we can do better.


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Why are Women Lawyers Leaving Law Firms?

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?


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All That Appears Helpful …. Well You Know The Rest

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.


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Is Matching Cravath Salaries a Good Idea in the Long Run?

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.

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The Summer Associate Drinking Etiquette Debate

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.

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Caveat ChatGPT!

This is no joke.  ChatGPT can get you in a lot of trouble unless it is used responsibly.

Ask the federal judge in MD who fined a law firm $5K for including fictitious case references in a brief based on ChatGPT research.  Ask another judge in NY who sanctioned lawyers for the same offense. You do not want to become a case study.

Time is precious. I understand that. Every lawyer would like to cut down on the time it takes to research the law and report that research in memoranda, briefs, opinion letters, etc. It can be very time consuming. Shortcuts like ChatGPT might save you time but can be heavy on costs that definitely are not worth it. Think money and jobs.

So start right here by using your time wisely. Take a few minutes to read this article:

You will come away understanding what ChatGPT is and how to prudently use it and keep yourself out of trouble. For example you will read that:

ChatGPT is NOT a Legal Research Substitute.

But ChatGPT can do a lot of things that can help lawyers responsibly.

Your Ethical Obligations as a lawyer are of paramount concern and must be taken seriously

The author of this article is trying to help you. Be responsible and accept the help!

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Digging Into the Mentorship Relationship

Mentorship in law firms often is interpreted to be guidance from the partner level to the very bottom of the associate ranks. But that is too narrow a definition.

Mentors are present throughout the ranks of law firms and other legal spaces. They are fellow professionals who have valuable legal experience that can benefit others. In law firms, mentors for junior associates can be partners, but they also can be senior associates. Paralegals, who have worked in the same practice areas for years, also can be mentors. And it does not stop at the law firm door. Members of bar associations and other legal organizations also can be very effective mentors.

It is an experience thing, but it is not an age thing. Being willing to accept advice from a variety of fellow professionals, including those who are younger, is something you need to embrace to have access to the best mentors. That can be difficult for some young lawyers, who are caught up in appearances, and you should not allow it to be an impediment for you.

Here is an article about mentorship in small firms that includes some valuable information. Bigger is not necessarily better when it comes to personal relationships and professional growth. In fact, bigger firms can make the mentor-mentee relationship more complicated. So reading about how these critical relationships should work in smaller settings may be a good place to start.

You may also want to look at some things I have written about the importance of mentorship in the career development of young lawyers. My most recent book, New Lawyer Launch — The Handbook For Young Lawyers (Full Court Press, 2022), is a comprehensive mentorship piece that includes mentoring advice from a very impressive group of practicing lawyers and law firm leaders. And my recent article in the DC Bar magazine, Washington Lawyer, is another source available to you.

An effective mentor-mentee relationship can make the difference between success and disappointment in the legal profession. Make sure that you are using all the resources available to you to end up on the right side of that equation.

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