BigLaw taking the fall

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A friend forwarded this editorial from the Times which makes some points I think I’ve illustrated myself…but this take seems a little too optimistic and a touch naive.  No one can deny that there are HUGE changes taking place both in BigLaw and other law firm models and sectors.  But I can’t imagine BigLaw associates ever earning the same amount as ADA’s…although it’s an interesting idea.  What really boggles the mind is how the author makes the hours jump follow the salary jump.  I highly doubt hours for lawyers are ever going to go down by that much…at least in BigLaw.  Also, how do you slash salaries when partner shares are still crazy high.  It would be great if the public could pay less for legal-services but the bottom line is, the public needs a lot of these law firms to push through the big cases…big cases that change and shape the law…in ways we want it to be changed and shaped.  I agree that BigLaw needs to go back to the drawing room and figure something out because the current model is broken but I’m not sure they are going to nail it on the first draft by just slashing salaries and hours.  Sometimes we need lawyers to work 24/7 on a case they know like the back of their hands.  Sometimes we need a room full of lawyers reviewing documents from the past seven years that might hide some evidence.  I don’t think its the work that’s broken…it’s the millions  of dollars that were spent entertaining summers every year…and it is that salaries have crept up to $160,000 and beyond.  But it’s also that BigLaw firms were all in a huge competition to out spend each other-that’s what broke the system.  They were all competing for same outstanding talent when really there was plenty of talent to go around.  I think the biggest problem with the whole BigLaw model is that salaries are so rigid.  Compensation should be based on hours and quality of work not your graduating year.  The idea that you’re locked into the same salary basically no matter where you go is ridiculous.  If you work harder and other firms want to hire you away, why shouldn’t you get more money?  By the same token, lawyers who aren’t pulling their weight shouldn’t get salary increases just because they managed to hang on.  That’s what’s flawed…and that’s why BigLaw is having to delay start dates and rescind offers to 3rd year law students.  Instead of recruiters who plan field trips to Broadway shows and cooking classes, you should have serious HR departments who evaluate and determine who stays and who goes…who gets the raise and who holds steady…It’s simple.  

Editorial Observer – With the Downturn, It’s Time to Rethink the Legal Profession – NYTimes.com.

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