Law in Contemporary Society
-- CarinaWallance - 25 Jan 2008

I just saw this article in the New York Times yesterday and thought it might be of interest (I figured not everyone is as devoted a NY Times Style section reader as I am!). I don't know that its completely relevant to a lot of the issues we've been discussing, and as a Style section piece surely somewhat less serious - which is why I am posting it in a new topic. But the issue it raises is one of balancing work hours which, whatever area of law one goes into, is certainly a major issue in such a demanding profession - one which already concerns me on a daily basis as a first year law student. I would be interested in hearing other people's thoughts on this subject.

Thanks for the link!

It seems like workers get improved worker treatment either when the government steps in to require it or the employers must to ensure that supply of workers meets their demand. I can't see legislatures stepping in to help the poor exploited attorney community anytime soon, and it seems like outsourcing is going to move the supply/demand issue in the firms' favor. So how does that effect the future of efforts like these, to achieve better working conditions for us at firms in the next 5 years? Can't be good...

-- MakalikaNaholowaa - 26 Jan 2008

The concern is the working condition of big law attorneys?

Over the past decade or two, firms have drastically increased starting pay as well as the number of hours required. There are very few (if any) other jobs where the entry level position pays $160,000 (not including bonus). If you don't want to earn that amount of money, you are free to find a firm that pays less and has a lower hours requirement.

Depending on the firm and the practice area, these attorneys seem to work something like 60-70 hours per week. Many salaried positions require something similar. Retail management comes to mind as an example.

Aside from the hours, big law work seems rather comfortable: you spend your day reading and writing in a climate controlled office. You get to sit in a chair. There is no risk of physical injury.

"Poor exploited attorney community?" Perhaps I am misunderstanding you/missing something.

-- SandorMarton - 26 Jan 2008

  • Well played mate, however I think he was being sarcastic. =)
    -- TheodoreSmith - 26 Jan 2008

Carina, I assume that you are interested in balanced work hours because you are interested in having a family and assume that you will be sharing or shouldering the caregiver duties and logistics. As the article indicates, many firms offer various versions of lower hours for lower pay with (usually) less job security, and women are often interested in these mommy track options. My suggestion would be to note while you are summering at a given firm just what its official mommy tracks are, how many women are engaged in those tracks, and where they are in their tracks. Although "big firm" is usually stereotyped both generally and by community, keep in mind that each firm, practice area, and partner has its own culture and internal and street reputation, along with its own tolerance for or acceptance of alternative work options. Note the partner/associate ratio in a given practice area, and note whether and how many attorneys hold themselves out as practicing in more than one area. To you, it's the individual people who make the difference -- so use those lunch "chits" and other social opportunities to get to know others and figure out how you can fit in, be a part of, and add to that culture. Best wishes.

-- BarbPitman - 26 Jan 2008

I was being sarcastic guys (by referring to the attorney community as "poor and exploited") - sorry I made that unclear, I have to remember that this is a conversation with people who don't know me.

-- MakalikaNaholowaa - 26 Jan 2008

Carina, thanks for that article. I also found this one in the “related articles” section relevant to our class discussion about legal outsourcing to India.

I must admit that I am somewhat skeptical about the extent and speed at which Eben believes legal work will be transferred to India. ... [see DeathofGiantFirms2 for more. --Main.AndrewGradman]

-- EdwardNewton - 26 Jan 2008

I want to respond to EdwardNewton on legal outsourcing and cost pressures on associates, but I don't want to divert the discussion from Carina's topic of balancing work and life. I sensed we both wanted to move away from the present topic.

I don't know TWiki etiquette, but I hope, EdwardNewton and BarbPitman, you don't mind if I copy-past your posts to DeathofGiantFirms2. If you do, of course, you can always move them back.

-- AndrewGradman - 26 Jan 2008

While the article is addressing firm-life, I didn't mean to raise this issue simply in that context. As far as I understand, many jobs in government and public service tend to demand more hours than in the private sector. The comments about the effects of outsourcing in this area are good ones. I have spoken with a few female attorneys who are optimistic about the prospect of maternal plans, etc. that they think their legal employers are moving towards - both firm and non-firm employers. Indeed, it seems that this trend will be affected by the increase in outsourcing.

-- CarinaWallance - 27 Jan 2008

Just a side note regarding the “mommy track”: I interviewed with a woman who was about 8 months into her pregnancy with her second child. When I asked about her experience as a mother + attorney, she warned me to find out the specifics of any given firm’s maternity leave policy and part-time work policy. She said most firms like to skirt the issue with “we have a GREAT maternity leave policy and we also have GREAT part-time work arrangements.” In reality, however, maternity leave usually consists of a couple months off only to find that you’re about 3 months behind in what you have to do and part-time work entails working about 10 hours fewer/week at half the salary. She now works at Greenberg Traurig and says they have “real” part-time options; she gets into her office around 10am and gets home for dinner and also has time to take her daughter to ballet class. Also, I think Kirkland & Ellis gives you 4 months maternity leave (which I think is still not enough time to spend with your newborn, but it’s considered very generous in this field). I don’t know how many people are interested in this issue, but I hope this helps!

-- ChristinaYoun - 28 Jan 2008

Christina, Thanks for providing concrete examples to what I suggested above -- nothing like getting to the heart of the issue in a given context so that you know exactly (or almost exactly) what you are getting into.

-- BarbPitman - 29 Jan 2008



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r17 - 22 Jan 2009 - 00:35:30 - IanSullivan
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