Tag Archives: Law Firm Life

A Softer Side: The End?

Work/life balance. It used to be a topic that filled this blog, but I’ve barely written about in the past few months. Of course we all know the reason why, however, the question now becomes: what will happen to the debate. Jordan Furlong has written a great post on his blog, Law21, concerning the legacy of work/life balance and his concerns over the current status.

One paragraph that really caught my eye:

There are two institutional flaws in our system that hurt our newest colleagues. First, there’s the unspoken symbiosis between law schools and law firms — the former charge students huge amounts of money and provide little practical lawyer training, allowing the latter to hire low-skilled and heavily indebted graduates to fill virtually the only positions lucrative enough to pay off their loans. And secondly, billable-hour targets for associates at more than a few firms simply can’t be achieved without damage to one’s health or ethics, or both. These problems are neither natural nor inevitable — they result from our neglect of the system, and they annually damage our profession’s standards and morale. (my emphasis)

As Mr. Furlong so succinctly states, the problems of work/life balance are institutionalized and are damaging to the profession as a whole, not a few. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the profession as a whole to continue to work to make positive changes.

Maybe we have seen the death of the work/life balance debate…maybe it will continue when the economy recovers, who can really say.

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Yoga and the Practice of Law

It’s been awhile since we’ve had a post about the work/life balance at law firms (except about the removal of said perks), but a firm in Memphis is bucking the trend. Burch Porter & Johnson offer on-site yoga every Wednesday during the lunch hour. Other exercise classes are offered on Mondays and Fridays. The cost for attending: a mere $4 for yoga and $3 for the other classes. What a great way to support your employees!

For the full article, click here.

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LexisNexis Technology Gap Survey: How Does it Affect Your Firm?

LexisNexis surveyed 700 legal and white collar professionals in the United States to determine the extent of a generation gap in terms of technology in the workplace. Three generations took the survey, which included Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y. While it is no surprise that Boomers appear notably more concerned about information overload than Gen X, you will find some surprising responses regarding workplace productivity, etiquette, and the impact on confidentiality.

For a full look into the generation gap, click here to view the entire survey.

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What Two Things Go Great Together?

Attorney and Bookbinder? Jobrated.com recently released their Top 200 jobs list.

At number 82: attorney.

At number 83: bookbinder.

Hat tip to ATL.

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Generation “Watch Out”

I found a link to this intriguing article from Ad Week on the (non)billable hour blog. Although the article is focusing on graduates in the marketing field, the author’s observations apply to 20-somethings generally. We’ve been hearing about this generation for the past few years, but have law firms adapted? Are we ready for this generation and the next?  As Matt Homann points out on his blog…”love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re not just your children, they’re your future clients, employees and partners.”

Here are some interesting quotes from the article:

How they live has everything to do with how they work. They time shift. Favorite shows happen online on-demand. News is 24/7. There’s not much use for e-mail. Instead, they’re YouTubing, Stumbling, Digging, Twittering, blogging, updating. They’re Loopted and LinkedIn. Caffeine drives the day and night. In this world, wristwatches and alarm clocks are as necessary as rabbit ears. They grew up IMing, and the cell phone rules. Area-code identity is mobile but long lasting — a virtual network.

All this makes them, at their best, unbelievably creative and productive. On the other hand, they also think they have all the answers. Morley Safer wrote recently of this generation’s entitlement issues: They’ve grown up with everyone as winners, with inspired birthday parties and planned events, with middle-class privilege and opportunities at every camp, academy and take-your-kid-to-work experience. They expect careers, not jobs.

Buckle up. This group does not look or work the same as generations past.

To read the article in its entirety, click here.

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Update 4: A Softer Side?

The ability to work anywhere at any time does have some perks, and firms are catching on according to this article from law.com. Law Firm Perk of the Moment: Flextime.

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Update 3: A Softer Side?

From our friends at Above the Law, a report on a new service aimed at the “sandwich generation” at Goodwin Proctor: “Free, round-the-clock access to a telephone support center that provides information on services for the elderly, the disabled, and the family members who care for them.”

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Things that might change soon…

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Friday Fun

Signs that your law firm might be in trouble from The Snark. See #5 for my personal favorite…

1. People start doing strange things, such as taking vacations or long weekends. Even without gas to get anywhere, “vacation” is a much better excuse for not billing hours than not having any work. And since no one takes a vacation when they have work, days off can be a sign of a slowdown.

2. The holiday party gets downsized. You know your firm is hurting when you get this e-mail announcement: “This year Biglaw has decided to go green for the annual Holiday Party. In the spirit of sustainability and eco-awareness, we are moving the party from the un-energy-efficient Grand Ballroom at Five Star Hotel to a quaint, family-owned country farm that grows organic cotton and raises grain-fed, free-range, opera-loving chickens. Everyone will get one glass and one plate to use throughout the night to save costs — oops, I mean to save the earth. And no band this year, because of the wasteful energy sucked by those high-powered (and expensive) amps. Instead, we will have a harp player from the local music school (the managing partner’s grandniece — no charge!). Please come and join the fun!”

3. Basic services and perks start to evaporate. The firm also may cut some costs in tight times by eliminating nonbillable staff positions or perks. But they’ll make these changes sound like something done for your benefit and totally unconnected to the bottom line.

4. Billable hours dry up. As Cogs, we all know our function in life is to bill hours. When partners stop calling you and asking you to research mundane areas of the law for hours on end, you need to worry.

5. Partners start doing their own work. The final and most telling sign that times are tough at Biglaw is when you find yourself in this conversation:

Cog: “Hey Partner, it’s Cog. I just wanted to see if you had time to discuss the brief you wanted me to write today.”

Partner: “No need, Cog. I went ahead and started a draft yesterday and will be making revisions today. I went to the firm library and pulled down some cases from the books on the shelves. They really need to dust in there. I may call you if my secretary is at lunch when I need to enter my changes into that word-processing thing-a-ma-gig. But otherwise, I think I have it under control.”

Partners doing legal research and writing memos and briefs in longhand is a sign of the apocalypse and proof that Biglaw is not immune to a bad economy.

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Update 2: A Softer Side?

Lawjobs.com was kind enough to summarize some of the “more bizarre” perks at some law firms:

The rewards offered to busy lawyers extend beyond salaries and into all sorts of gratis goodies. Legal Week casts its eye over some of the more bizarre perks on offer, from beauty treatments to free chocolate bars.

Flu jabs. Free for the elderly, infirm and … er … associates at Herbert Smith, Lovells and Beachcroft.

Complimentary fruit. Dechert, McGrigors and Hill Dickinson prefer to boost their associates’ immune systems through all-you-can-eat fruit policies. Mindful of the dangers of vitamin C overload, Reed Smith takes a more cautious approach — offering a “nutritious snack” every Friday.

Will-writing surgeries. If the flu jabs and fruit don’t appear to be doing the trick, embrace your mortality, bill like crazy in the time you’ve got left and concentrate on leaving a fat wedge of expertly drafted legacy to friends and loved ones, courtesy of Berwin Leighton Paisner’s will-writing surgeries.

Sleeping pods. Work so many hours that you’ve forgotten what your partner looks like in daylight? Well, why not ditch them, sell your flat and move into the office full time?! Lovells and Ashurst have boarding school-style facilities just waiting to be taken advantage of.

Stress counseling. For those worried about becoming a statistic in the next wave of job losses, salvation comes in the form of the professional counseling services provided by Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft and CMS Cameron McKenna.

On-site Starbucks and bar. Clifford Chance favors the old-school approach to keeping happy and healthy: a shot of caffeine to perk you up early, some high-calorie, cream-filled snacks as a spirit-raising treat around noon, followed by a double scotch to settle you down at the end of the day.

Shoe shining. “Oh my God! You can’t possibly meet the client in those dirt-encrusted old things!” Fortunately, if you’re an associate at Cadwalader or Trowers & Hamlins, help is at hand.

New age therapies. Withers offers Alexander technique and reflexology, Wragge & Co provides yoga classes while SJ Berwin has a “wellness center.” Reports (unconfirmed at the time of going to press) described a Goa-style retreat behind some velvet curtains in the corner of the corporate department.

Beauty treatment. Weil, Gotshal & Manges, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Clifford Chance all have their very own Gok Wans on call to make sure their associates don’t look too haggard.

Free vending machine food after 7 p.m. Eschewing flashy perks, LG offers free candy if you work late. Doubtless, the place is packed in the evenings.

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