Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Young Lawyers Fleeing From Big Firms To...

The New York Post suggests that big law firms are being abandoned by young lawyers who don't believe that a large paycheck is worth the sacrifice of a personal life.
Young, Gen-X lawyers in their third to fifth year in the business are walking away from their $200,000-a-year positions in record numbers - at times without another job in view.

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The big-firm brain drain is also giving partners a major case of agita - forcing them to do the yeoman grunt work usually assigned to associates. In addition, the firms are being forced to scramble to fill the mid-level talent void. Some are even doing the previously unheard of - hiring from second-tier law schools.

John, a fifth year associate at a prominent Wall Street firm, is, like many young lawyers, walking out the door. He is leaving for a coveted in-house position at an investment bank. "I'm just waiting for my bonus," the 31-year-old says.
The author of the piece doesn't describe her own experience, but her byline suggests that she quit a law firm in order to write a book. John is the only specific example she provides in the article, and let's just say it doesn't look like he's walking away from a six figure paycheck. The other lawyer mentioned, Tagg Grant, appears to be preparing to practice under his own shingle. (Is this the same guy enjoying an earlier fifteen minutes of fame?)

I suspect that most of the associates who are leaving are doing so in the same manner as John - they're either finding alternatives that pay very well but allow more personal time, or they're finding alternatives which pay even better whether or not they provide for more personal time. The problem for partners:
"You should see the partners," John says. "They're doing the work of mid-levels to pick up the slack. And even though they make over $1 million, they never see their family. There's little reward in that for me."
That's the problem with a business model based on selling time - there are only so many hours in the day, and if you can't find somebody else's time to sell you're stuck selling your own. It's no small wonder that many young lawyers look at that future and think about the alternatives.

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