Friday, February 13, 2009

Post-Black Thursday thoughts

I know everyone and his or her mother has already commented on the layoffs at many firms yesterday. This is something we haven't seen since the early 90s and even then probably not on this scale. Nonetheless, to close out the week I do have a few comments on the situation. (There is also a good summary here that contains many of these ideas.)

  • The layoffs had to happen not only because of a lack of work but also because of a lack of normal attrition in a down market. Of course, the fact that some law firm managers plan on and expect 25% attrition is entirely another problem.
  • We've let our profession become a business driven by profit and loss. Because of the business model, some move around like nomads either because of it and/or because they know they are almost as fungible as associates. I'm not sure we can close Pandora's Box, but it is food for thought.
  • First year associates are, by and large, overpaid and useless. I know. I used to be one. And now, of course, clients do not want first-years assigned to their matters. Can you blame them? How do you solve this problem?
  • I actually like the idea of cutting salaries. But the problem is that law school has become so expensive that you will never be able to pay loans back. Making first years cheaper is the issue in my opinion.
  • Medical schools have it right. There is a scarcity of them and thus a scarcity of doctors. We are cranking out too many JDs in this country, many of whom are doomed to have huge loans and no way of paying them back as lawyers. Personally, I'd reduce the number of schools drastically.
  • I really, really like the idea of articling like they do in Canada. Have graduates intern (like doctors) at a law firm for a year -- working cheaply -- and learning the basics of actually being a lawyer. And this possibly solves the problem of untrained first year associates. Of course, that system is not perfect either and there have even been thoughts about getting rid of the practice in Ontario.
Anyway, I do not have all the answers. I'm not sure I have any. And I feel terrible for all the people that were let go. But maybe this is a good time to rethink business models and existing paradigms and look outside the box we have been in for so long.


BawldGuy said...

Wish I'd written this post. Mentoring, apprentice programs, internships, and the rest are what so many professions are missing -- and they're suffering for it big time.

Gonna post my version of this on BloodhoundBlog. Thanks for the inspiration.

David Stejkowski said...

It drives me nuts. I have had great mentors in my career who trained me in practice, business, client relationships, sound reasoning, deal-making and just plain life. But I am lucky. Others have not been, and I hope they are able to find people who can help them along in their careers.