TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Cuddly" Law Firms

Interesting article in the New York Times:  Who’s Cuddly Now? Law Firms, by Lisa Belkin:

Inthe last two decades, as working schedules became flexible, and even accounting firms, of all places, embraced the mantra of work-life balance (at least on paper), there was one unbending, tradition-bound profession: the law.

That is why it is so remarkable to watch the legal world racing — metaphorical black robes flapping — to catch up.

Over the last few years and, most strikingly, the last few months, law firms have been forced to rethink longstanding ways of doing business, if they are to remain fully competitive.

As chronicled by my colleague Alex Williams in the Sunday Styles section earlier this month [blogged here], lawyers are overworked, depressed and leaving.

Less obvious, but potentially more dramatic, are the signs that their firms are finally becoming serious about slowing the stampede for the door. So far the change — which includes taking fresh looks at the billable hour, schedules and partnership tracks — is mostly at the smaller firms. But even some of the larger, more hidebound employers are taking notice.

For more, see the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog: The Legal Profession: Is There Something Happening Here?

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It's not really clear why law firms make associates work so many hours in the first place. At all other companies, if there is too much work to go around, such that everyone is working 70 hour weeks, they hire more employees. Only law firms and investment banks make their employees work crazy hours rather than expand the workforce.

Posted by: Half Sigma | Jan 25, 2008 8:36:34 PM