Monday, March 05, 2007

Guess I'm not the only one

Remember back when I was quitting my law firm job and I mentioned the New York Post article about how big law firms were losing all of their mid-level associates?

The president of the D.C. Bar blames escalating law firm salaries:

For the law firms that pay them, astronomical associate salaries increase pressures on profitability, which take a heavy toll on firm culture.


Associates leave big law firms in spite of the money and not because it isn’t enough. Higher salaries will do nothing to give associates greater responsibility, more rewarding work, better training, or increased access to mentors—the things that many associates who leave big firms say they wanted but didn’t get.


For those associates who do tough it out, these higher salaries are not a happy development. There is no free lunch. Higher salaries inevitably mean higher billable-hour expectations and even less work–life balance. Greater emphasis on revenue generation seems inevitably to reduce the quality of lawyers’ lives.

Another article agrees:

If improving associate morale was Simpson's goal, says Link, the raise may do more harm than good.

A higher salary "puts more pressure on productivity and hours," says Link, exacerbating precisely the quality-of-life issues that make junior lawyers unhappy.


As for overall associate happiness, the raise could have a negative impact.

Many firms will ask associates to cover their own raises with longer days or higher productivity. During the last round of hikes, Dechert raised its New York salary from $125,000 to $145,000. At the same time, the firm raised its minimum billables from 1,950 to 2,000 hours, according to associates at Dechert. An associate at Covington & Burling says that even if there isn't a formal change in the requirements, partners will simply expect more hours.

"We don't say, 'Here's your raise, now work 50 more hours,'" says Roger Warin, chairman of Steptoe & Johnson. "But associates know, for most firms, that's the way the math works."

The D.C. Bar president's suggestion, however, sounded familiar:

Don’t become dependent on the money. Live below your means, and be generous. Once you’ve got your educational debt under control, do what you want to do because you love it, not what you have to do to maintain a lifestyle. Remember why you went to law school: to make a difference. And follow your heart.

Amen, brother.


Bo, Shae and Brinson said...

I second the Amen. It is amazing how many attorneys are coming back to the accounting firms like myself, where the money is not as good, but everything else that article mentions is (at least it is so far for me). I know you feel the same way about the government, as I am sure many attorneys do as well.

Good articles - thanks for sharing.


Dara said...

Bo: Thanks for reading and agreeing.

But seriously, do you need to sign your name? Were you worried I would think it was Shae or Brinson commenting on a lawyer article? (I mean, Brinson is advanced and all, but I'm sure he's not up to posting comments on the blog yet.)

(Note to self: Avoid using expletives, since Brinson might be reading.)

Bo, Shae and Brinson said...

I guess I did it for the other readers & posters of the blog - I mean, there could be a lot of Baby Bob fans out there!

Ok, so there are no Baby Bob fans out there.

Not Shae nor Brinson

Gator Duck said...

Well, I'm not a lawyer, but I'll add a Ramen (after all, I am a Pastafarian). Regardless of your profession that is excellent advise. Several years ago I took a job for considerably less money than I felt I was worth. At the time, because of health issues, it was the right move to make. Eight years later, I'm still at the same job and I am a happy Gator. The job has ample challenges but I don't go home every night with knots in my stomach and I don't get up in the morning dreading going in to the office.

Most important, I've got balance in my life, I was forced to live below my means, and I no longer try to keep up or stay ahead of the Joneses AND couldn't care less what anyone else thinks.

Dara said...

Wow, a Gator and a Pastafarian!

It's hard to give up all that money, but so far, it's so much better. And, even though I didn't really care what anyone else thought, it was pretty cool when my mom told me that she knew it was a tough decision, but she was proud of me for making it.

CBK said...

I wish I had the opportunity to leave a high-paying job to improve my quality of life. Instead I get to live below my means courtesy of my damn law school loans. [grumble]

RJ said...

A friend of mine did something similar. First she left the Census Bureau to work for a non-profit at a lower salary, then decided she didn't like statistics - or DC - at all.

So, she went to grad school for Mathematics, and now has her masters degree and teaches college-level math courses. Also, she met a guy in grad school and is now engaged. This is the first time I've known her to be really happy. Definitely the right move for her.)

Dara said...

CBK: I'm much happier without the law firm, but I still have my loans too. And as much as I like the new job in comparison to the law firm, if I didn't have bills to pay, I'd find a way to quit working altogether so I would have the time to write my damn novel already.

RJ: I guess it can happen in any profession.