Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Okay, this is a really stupid recruiting move. Yahoo has a ridiculous article from, called "Law Firms Mull the 'Gen Y' Equation" that basically says that law firms are upset because young associates don't work hard enough.

Big money at large firms may be intoxicating for young lawyers with mounds of school debt, but new associates often are not willing to make the sacrifice that those salaries demand, said Bruce McLean, chairman of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.

"It entices people to come to big firms who really don't want to do what we do," said McLean, adding that Akin Gump has a "significant number" of hardworking associates.

Generation Y associates often come from the nation's top schools and have other impressive credentials, McLean said, but what many do not have is unbridled ambition. "Just being successful and a partner in a firm is not enough of a motivating tool," he said.
I mean, I guess I can see the line of reasoning here. Lots of people coming out of top schools are going to firms for the money, and aren't really passionate about the work, and their hearts aren't in it. But the attitude that comes through here is what's a little frightening. That the problem isn't the firm's but the associate's and that associates just need to work harder. When the truth is that associates seem to work pretty hard -- or at least pretty long -- at all of these firms, and do make sacrifices, and do want to do a good job -- but that the firm doesn't live up to its side of the bargain, and doesn't always provide work that associates can get passionate about.

Later in the article:

Studies indicate that young workers are less willing to put in long hours and instead are more focused on pursuing interests outside work than were their predecessors. A report issued by the Families and Work Institute in October, Generation and Gender in the Workplace, found that younger employees are less likely to be "work-centric." The study also found that young men and women are more interested in staying at the same rung on the career ladder in order to preserve their quality of life.


"This group wants to grow professionally and advance to partnership, but not while compromising their personal lives," said Karen MacKay, a partner with Edge International. The survey, "Motivating the Next Generation," was sent to about 4,000 members of the law firm network Multilaw. About 800 attorneys responded.


One managing partner at a New York firm cited a "failure to take charge of their career" as a common problem with young associates. "They are more willing to sit back and wait for things to happen to them instead of making them happen for themselves," the attorney said, adding that new associates today are more brazen than those in previous years. "They are willing to turn down work they don't want to do. They don't volunteer for committee or other firm work."

Another managing partner at a national firm said that many new associates, unlike associates before them, no longer "feel lucky" to have their jobs. The attorney also said that associates now operate under a pack mentality.

"[Newer associates] have a very strong connection with each other as opposed to the institution. If someone is treated badly, they all react to it," the attorney said.
I guess what I find kind of frightening about the article is that there's a sense that these are bad things -- that people wanting a life outside of work, wanting work that's interesting and challenging, wanting a balanced existence is all illustrative of a "problem" with associates today, and it's something firms need to "solve." I mean, if this is really the attitude the law firms have, then that's scary, and demonstrates a real disconnect with what I would imagine most of us would like to think the reality is.

But what amazes me is that the chairman of Akin Gump was willing to go on record saying he doesn't think associates "make the sacrifice" that the salaries demand, and that while they have a "significant number" of hardworking associates, it's a problem. Because even if it's true, how does this help Akin Gump? How does this make them more desirable if you're a law student looking for a job? It just seems like a stupid thing to say.