Friday, January 25, 2013
Huffington Post op-ed: Pay Associates Less? A Novel Response to a Rapidly Changing Legal Market, by Lawrence M. Solan (Brooklyn):
Legal education is said to be in crisis. Law school applications are down sharply as prospective law students question whether the high cost of legal education is worth it. A good part of the declining interest results from the loss of entry-level jobs at large law firms, which typically pay salaries high enough to offset post-graduation debt.
As firms complain that recent graduates are inadequately trained in the practical aspects of lawyering, law schools, including my own law school, are implementing various forms of experiential learning, ranging from in-house clinics to enhanced externship opportunities to the equivalent of full-year apprenticeship programs. While law schools should continue training lawyers to hit the ground running, these moves respond to only a small part of a larger problem.
Much of what is driving the diminution in opportunities for law school graduates at elite law firms is the fact that business clients have become less willing to pay high hourly rates for teams of novices. ...
The crucial question facing both legal educators and the legal profession, then, is how to get newly minted lawyers through the first couple of years so that they gain enough knowledge and experience to become “adult lawyers” capable of producing high professional caliber work.
Here is a simple proposal to address at least part of the problem: If clients are not willing to pay top dollar for the work of inexperienced associates, hire the associates at lower salaries, and give them substantial raises as their value increases…
Why not cut associate pay in the early years? For example, offer them $75,000, $125,000 and $175,000 for the first three years, respectively. This salary cut will permit firms to continue to train the next generation of elite lawyers in substantial numbers, while shifting some of the cost of training its most junior associates from the clients to the trainees themselves. Moreover, although large firms face pressure to remain competitive, the promise of these substantial raises should be a significant enticement to attract the best talent. Finally, savvy business clients will respect and choose firms that honestly link compensation to the realities of the market.
- ABA Journal, How to Create Opportunity for Newbie Lawyers? Cut Their BigLaw Salaries, Law Prof Says
- Above the Law, Law Professor Suggests Cutting Associate Salaries in Response to Job Crisis, But Not His Own
- Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), To: Professor Lawrence M. Solan