While thousands of people are getting laid off and losing their jobs, some people who have been chained to their desks and blackberries for the past six years are getting year-long paid vacations! Associates at Skadden Arps were offered a 1/3 of their salaries to take a year off and/or practice Pro Bono law. For most associates at a big law firm, the lure of having some time off and still getting paid, even if it’s only a third of their salaries, is a pretty sweet deal. Of course, lord knows what you’re returning to…but it’s better than sitting around and waiting to get axed while working 20 hour days. Right?
In the battle to stay afloat and not have major layoffs, Schiff Hardin is turning over a new leaf. They are making some extreme cost cuts in an effort to keep all of their associates and staff. Associates, like partners and Of Counsel, will be paying their own full insurance costs. The silver lining, if they do get laid off, their COBRA payments will be cheaper than what they’ve been paying at work! In addition to insurance (which should save the firm a BUNDLE) they are pushing back start dates, shortening the summer program, and offering volunteer early retirement. I admire their honesty with their staff and their efforts to find more creative ways to avoid layoffs and the like. Let’s see if it works. They are a great firm and I’d hate to see any of them go.
And explores some new business models. Basically, BigLaw has to change…Big time. What’s interesting about the discussion is that the same models that were used to bring associates better quality of life (which really means ANYTHING OUTSIDE THE OFFICE) are now being discussed as models that could save big firms from going under. Interesting ideas and a lot of information about where the industry could be going. Of course, its anybody’s guess where the industry actually ends up. My question is-what about law school costs? When are law schools going to change? At this point, I think it’s hard to look at them and see anything other than a pyramid scheme…or a bullshit factory. I guess law schools have been both for quite some time.
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.
ATL and CNN both featured articles on BigLaw lawyers transitioning to ProBono and volunteer work…but the messages could not be more different. Read it and weep…as with so many articles about the legal field these days:
Do people really show up for interviews iced to the gills? Seriously? This isn’t Miss Rap Supreme. And it’s not like smaller law firms don’t dress for work. They wear Brooks Brothers too. I feel like the etiquette is pretty much the same no matter where you’re interviewing. And I know that BigLaw gets into your head, makes you think $100 is normal for lunch, but really? Really? You can’t figure out how to tone it down and not be an asshole for an interview? Tres Declasse.