As most of my other posts reveals, I enjoy skimming nylawyer.com and tend to use these affiliate sites as my main source of news... so you are probably unsurprised that this post is inspired by an article recently published on law.com - I am so predictable.
I think many large law firms are predictable as well. When I read an article entitled "Firms Predict More Work, Less Equity" I was saddened, but unsurprised.
The article predicts that law firms will see even less expansion of their equity partner ranks, while at the same time more expansion in the associate ranks and a higher demand of billable hours.
If you rolled your eyes or tensed up or let out a small gasp - then you probably feel the way I did when I read that.
There are only 24 hours in a day and once cannot possibly bill all of them.
The thing that gets me is that this actually gets to me. I am very career minded, unmarried, and you can ask any of my friends - they'll all tell you that I was born sans the mommy gene. And while that is subject to change - I think that my outlook regarding work-life balance is far less restricted than many of my friends and associates. Sure, I have ties to family and friends - but not ties like a spouse or children create - I am able to consult one person when it comes to life decisions - myself - and that seems to leave me generally less worried about balancing work and life (maybe I need to get a life?)... so when talk of billable hours has me in a huff, well, that worries me even more.
Women are already few in number when it comes to partners in law firms (let alone equity partners), and this may be a combination of society (women being primary caregivers) and priorities (read Because We Can) - and I am not necessarily saying that we should lower the bar. But I am concerned about the culture of law firm spending and how that may relate to the bottom line.
I don't have access to the books and I don't have any basis for my speculations other than sheer... well, speculation - but here goes. Besides salaries (which are ever increasing - and I am hesitant to poo poo them until I learn what it is like to live in New York while paying off massive loans, etc) - are law firms overspending in some areas?
I think of recruiting season, and the first thing that comes to mind is sorority rush - but on a whole new level. At least there were caps on spending and bans on gifts during my campus' sorority rush - "BigLaw rush" is another story.
I've never received more chocolate, pens, highlighters, frisbees, Starbucks cards, etc. being thrown around in such a frivolous (and awkward) manner in my life. Sure, these things are nice. Sure, I used a few of them (mostly I ate the chocolate) - but what is the point? Most of those firms weren't impressed with me - and I wasn't swayed by their swag.
The competition between law firms is out of control. One firm raises salaries and soon everyone else jumps on the bandwagon. How many of your law firms are looking at USB keys for OCI gifts next year? I mean, that was the "big hit" this season - was it not? Though I would personally vote for the chocolate business card... but that is another story.
A dinner here, a dinner there, a bigger hotel room, a flight upgrade - when does it end? I understand that I may be knocking the perks that many believe they are entitled to - particularly as summer associates - but the bottom line is this:
It adds up.
Every dollar counts - and I'd rather see a NALP rule severely capping spending on recruiting (including the summer program activities) which diverts that money to better use - heck, donate it to Ms. JD or another non-profit if it is so insignificant - I guarantee it will be more appreciated.
If the amount you spend on us plays that large of a role in our decision to summer with you - or to accept an offer, we may not be as smart as we think.