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.
Associate training and retention has certainly taken a backseat in this new era of layoffs and deferred start dates, but Drinker Biddle is bucking the trend with a new program for its Fall Associates. The comprehensive training program includes courses taught by attorneys, professional development staff and clients. Associates will also shadow partners and may assist with some client work. Initial feedback from clients has been positive.
Kudo’s to Drinker Biddle for responding to client feedback and thinking long-term about the success of their young lawyers.
To read more about the program, click here.
It appears that law schools and business schools have nothing to worry about, and may actually see a silver-lining in the economic cloud. Registrations for the LSAT are up 6.2% and GMAT registrations are up 10.4%. For more information click here.
In the long run, law firms will also benefit. The biggest contributor to current high associate salaries, was the war for talent caused by flat law school admissions. Will that continue to be the case? It doesn’t look like it. Combine increased law school enrollments with lay-offs, and firms will be able to pick and choose who they hire and at what price.
Does that question send chills down your spine? At a recent symposium on legal education, Professor David Chavkin of the University of Washington School of Law, put it this way:
“If the goal of medical school were to teach students not how to be doctors, but how to think like doctors, would you want to be a graduate’s first patient?”
Practical legal education has been a topic of discussion for at least the last 20 years, but the noise seems to be growing louder and louder. In today’s world of increased competition, the need to hit the ground running and be immediately productive, is extremely high. Those new lawyers who were exposed to the actual practice of law, are bound to be more successful than their counterparts.
While law schools continue to add more clinics and practice-based classes, I would argue that it is incumbent upon law firms to implement comprehensive training programs that address the needs of new lawyers, including legal research and writing. Surveys show that new lawyers will spend 80% of their time in the first three years on legal research and writing. If that is true, then sharpening those skills is even more important than almost anything else.
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.
In an article earlier this year, Big Firm Associates: Why They Go and How to Keep Them, I found a very interesting quote: “…most importantly, firms could spend as much time on professional development as on marketing.” I don’t know if firms are using this type of benchmark to measure the amount of resources committed to professional development, but it is an interesting idea.
The link between retention and professional development is one that makes sense, and inspired us to develop a workshop series to help firms. Visit our site to learn more (prepare2practice).
Legal research, legal writing and business development are some of the most important skills that a new lawyer can have, especially in this economy. However, these skills are often neglected in law school (by both the students and the schools) or not taught at all. With that in mind…Cable&Clark is proud to launch a new workshop series called Prepare2Practice. There are current two California sessions scheduled for December, with more to come in 2009.