The Ideal Law Firm for Generations X and Y
Unfortunately, it’s a given fact
that young lawyers, especially between 25 and 41, are constantly dropping out
of objectively successful careers on their way to a potential partner position
in big law firms. Therefore, we now want to take a closer look on the main
reasons and how to prevent that from happening through giving advice on much
needed improvement in the work space.
THE STATUS QUO
As suggested above, associates in
their Thirties tend to choose to quit their positions at big player law firms in
order to gain more of a work-life balance. This applies mostly to women, so
that as a result females are strongly underrepresented at the top of law firms,
leading to a gender gap, which very much should be averted.
Generation X and Y lawyers rather
have more time to spend on their families, relationships, and also their (future) children, than to
sacrifice all their energy and their whole 10-12 hour day on a stressful,
although well paid career. Studies actually do show that a higher life quality is
much more important to them than a high income or huge annual bonuses.
Partnership systems often suggest a 7 to 8 year career track, in which the
pressure and work load constantly intensify throughout, until they achieve a
prestigious partner position. But that doesn’t mean the hard work stops there.
Especially in the top league law firms, partners have to produce an enormous
amount of billable hours per month, so that even the achievement of that goal
does not help them to spend their time on their private lives.
In order to have the possibility of
part time work and more predictable hours, lots of associates leave their
firms, after having paid off student loans with their big firm salaries, and
start at smaller companies, nonprofit organizations or even as faculty members
at law schools. Because of more reasonable workloads and more flexible time
management there, they have now the possibility to start their own families,
spend quality time with their kids and always have a family dinner together. A
daily routine which is far from reality for most parents at big law firms.
Especially through granting more
paternity leaves to their male employees, law firms would reduce the tremendously
high departure numbers of talented and hardworking young female lawyers, who
have no other option than to take care of their newborns or small children
themselves. A procedure which constantly reduces the female rank at law firms
and splits genders apart. Another important step would be to introduce more job
sharing situations, in which colleagues cooperate on cases, which reduces the
work load, responsibility and risk per person involved. That might lead to
higher costs for the firm, but should nevertheless be a constructive option to
minimize (expensive) mistakes on important legal matters through applying the 4
eye principle, and make the work environment in general more agreeable. Another
solution would be the beforehand mentioned introduction of part time
alternatives, which would, in the long run, surely decimate the stress and burn
out rate, and therefore improve the overall performance rate of the company.
To sum up, it’s rather easy toprevent young and bright attorneys, and especially women, to go and leave theirlaw firms after only a few years, with the adaption of a few changes andimprovements. Those should be especially easy to implement at bigger firms,given their financial flexibility and employee resources. An open dialogue aboutthese topics, particularly in regard to the support of female lawyers, shouldin any case be kept ongoing.
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