By Peg Johnston • May 02, 2007•Firms and the Private Sector
Heller Ehrman, a big San Francisco-based law firm, has a new project called "Opt-in." A very telling and optimistic statement on the project's website says, "We do not see a conflict with professionals seeking both fulfilling lives and rewarding careers, and we recognize that in helping all professionals find this balance, our industry will not only be able to recruit the best and the brightest, but also retain them."
Here's my voice in response to that boldness: "Yeah! Go for it! The sooner the better! I want a life and a firm job!"
The project claims to be looking for the solution to the "Opt out" phenomenon that plagues big law and other professions. Their project description and misison statement recognize that there are problems with the profession, the industry, and the business practices of big firms. Some say that we've reached the point of crisis.
There seems to be a ground swell of interest in reforming big law these days. Of course, there is Ms. JD that is trying to help by providing this space for women to network. There are student groups trying to assert recruiting-related pressure on firms to change billing practices by taking the "we won't stand for it" any longer approach. There are working groups, think tanks, professional associations all saying that this business model is just not working. See the recent Ms. JD post here for some relevant links.
My response to hearing about things like HE's Opt-in is-- Welcome to the Fight. It's an age-old tactical move to surround the enemy from all sides in order to isolate it. Let's attack from all sides: the recruiting, firm reputation, sisterhood, business-model, and client-demands avenues of approach. We're isolating the big-firm-associate-burn-out machine and we're aiming to finish it off and replace it with something better, something humane, something that provides real choices.