Friday, September 3, 2010

A Message From BigLaw Associates, We Are Quite Dissatisfied

The ABA Journal, taking a break from promoting worthless social media hacks, has brought us a message from Big Law Associates. It reads more like a list of demands from a hostage taker without hostages:

One of their big complaints is compensation, the American Lawyer reports. Twenty-seven percent of associates surveyed said their benefits had been reduced in 2010, and the associates rated their overall compensation and benefits an average of 3.78 on a five-point scale, the lowest rating in recent years.

No, I don't have any tissues, but I will let these BigLaw office dwellers who have never brought in a single client, in on a little news: compensation for most lawyers has been reduced in 2010. In fact, your BigLaw colleagues who were laid off so you could have a job, have seen their compensation reduced 100%.

Many associates complained they were being paid below-market rates. One asked for restoration of the firm’s 401(k) match, and another wanted to "bring back fun perks from before the recession.

"Below market rates." What market? This market? This is a market where clients want real legal services, not hours and hours of meaningless research. There is not so much of a market for law firms who handle every case with 5 lawyers billing hourly.

Associates also expressed dissatisfaction with staff layoffs that are forcing them to take on paralegal work.

Oh gee. Typing, stuffing an envelope here and there, answering a call. What to do? What to do?

Heavy workloads were also a factor; almost 45 percent said that if they leave their law firms, it will be for better work-life balance.

And there's the phrase that's injected in every discussion of the practice of law these days - "Work-life balance."

I have a suggestion for these unhappy associates who can't figure out how to convince their bosses to let them hang out at Starbucks, cut out at 3 on Fridays, and take a few weeks off to wander around Asia - start your own practice - then you can't complain about how much your firm thinks you are worth, or the extra work you have to do as a result of the fact that you still have a job. I know, you don't know how to practice law, but that really doesn't matter anymore - get a Facebook and twitter account, start a blog and link yourself to death and the clients will flow.

The article refers to these associates as "cranky." I think that's offensive to all the cranky babies in the world.

I'm off to work. This long Labor Day Weekend, I'll concentrate on "life balance."

Located in Miami, Florida, Brian Tannebaum practices Bar Admission and Discipline and Criminal Defense. He is the author of I Got A Bar Complaint.Share/Save/Bookmark


TC Langford said...

Genius. From a solo, thank you.

Anonymous said...

At a time when associate’s salaries are uncertain, even at the big law firms, it is understandable that people would be uneasy about the security of their job. The poor economy has hit every sector of the job market, including attorneys at big law firms. Associates are expressing notions of dissatisfaction with their increased workloads, but the fact is they are working. Some associates may have to accept the fact that it might be a few years before their jobs return to the way they were before the recession hit.

David Fuller said...

Complaining about work-life balance during a recession - particularly one that has slammed lawyers - is like Marie Antoinette complaining that she ripped her dress on the scaffold.

Anonymous said...

Did you have to take out a mortgage for your law degree, i.e., over $100k for your law degree (plus six figures for your undergrad degree)? No, I'm sure the first time you had that many zeros of debt it's because you bought a house, not a piece of paper. That piece of paper gets a lot of law grads the same or lower salary non-law grads make that they went to the same college with. Frankly, it's people like you that paid pennies on the dollar that the rest of us recent lawyers have had to pay for a law degree that are "entitled." You got to have some flexibility and control over your life and law career because you didn't owe six figures for your degree. So old lawyers like you whining comes off as "cranky" to me.

So are partners doing the legal research, document review, deposition outlines, writing the briefs, etc.?? You really believe those associate efforts don't count for anything? So you're going to show up to a hearing in a $100 million - $3 billion dollar case (the types of cases biglaw associates at those salaries work on) and not have any legal research to support your motion to dismiss or summary judgment motion? Really? Would you prefer no one do it or that someone from a fourth tier law school do it or someone without a law degree at all? Do you not think you'd be doing your clients a disservice if you didn't have a top notch associate doing that work? Do you think that getting a top notch associate is cheap? The market system we have would say no, quality associates are not cheap. Did you have to handle reviewing millions of pages of documents?? Of course not, you had a couple bankers boxes of documents. Did you have a chance of making partner, getting mentored, unlike new lawyers in biglaw? Of course. Stop whining; your generation of lawyers had it much better.

Brian Tannebaum said...


Welcome to my blog. Just some free advice - when you come to a blog to comment, you may want to read up a little on the blogger before throwing up all over the comment section.

No, I didn't have to take out a mortgage for my law degree. Neither did you. The problem with your type is that you believe we are all buying the "you made me go to law school and go into debt cry. We don't. You went because you thought you would get a nice fat check at the end. Oh well. Not my fault.

Old lawyers like me? I'm 41 sweetheart, and I'm not whining about anything. The problem is that when whiners like you complain that no one was there to tell you how awesome you are upon graduation and give you a $160,000 salary from day one, you fail to recognize that law school is not a trade school. You don't get a union job upon graduation.

Are partners doing the legal research, document review, deposition outlines, writing the briefs, etc.? No dear, I do all that myself. I have no associates. I"m a lawyer, not a billing machine.

Do I not think I'd be doing my clients a disservice if I didn't have a top notch associate doing that work?

No. Actually genius, I think BigLaw does a disservice overbilling for worthless associates doing document review. As a client, I'd rather have my lawyer working on my case. I know my clients appreciate having me work on their case, and not a bunch of egomaniac 25 year olds churning out hours.

Quality associates are actually cheap these days because their are so many that are unemployed, sitting around wondering where their golden ticket is. They went to law school for the cash, and the cash is not there.

Did I have to handle reviewing millions of pages of documents? No. I became a public defender - you didn't see that anywhere here?

So listen, I know you're upset. I know you were thinking that if you took out 100k, you would be paid back upon graduation.

Maybe you should have taken the cash and gone to Vegas.

Anonymous said...

You're comparing apples to oranges. Associates making 160k aren't working on cases or at firms where partners are doing their own research, first drafts, etc., but on cases involving nine-digit plus damages amounts, a hundred million documents, dozens of depositions, multiple motions in limine, etc. So since you don't have those types of cases and do your own work, what do you care about their salaries? It doesn't appear that you've ever worked in biglaw, so what do you even know about it? How do you know, never having worked at one, whether they do "hours and hours of meaningless research"? Do you really think that you, on your own, could do all the work in one of those types of bet the company litigations or internal investigation matters that biglaw firms regularly work on? What client would possibly hire you to do that work yourself when it takes multiple/dozens of attorneys, devoted just to that case and working long hours, to do that work? How could a GC justify to its board that it hired one attorney juggling multiple cases to do the work of several on a five hundred million dollar case? A GC couldn't.

So it must be nice for you to work in a world where you can do everything yourself. But you are complaining about biglaw associates, and biglaw firms have cases that just can't be done by one person. And since there's more work than one partner can do, it's cheaper to have the more junior attorneys who graduated from top law schools do other work at lower rates than to have multiple partners doing all of the work. That's why biglaw firms exist and why clients choose biglaw firms. That's not to say some cases aren't overstaffed or staffed with too many junior or senior attorneys than the case warrants. But clients aren't powerless, and have the option of setting forth their expectations, budgets, staffing levels, negotiating their bills, getting discounts, etc. As long as high-dollar cases and large, complex cases exist, biglaw firms will exist. As long as biglaw firms exist, they will hire graduates of the top law schools, and "market" rates for those graduates will exist.

And regardless of whether you think all recent law school grads went to law school for a big paycheck or not, when you and your peers went to law school, good law schools didn't cost six figures. It's not like there is a huge supply of top law schools for $10k a year. The current law school model makes it pretty hard to pay off the loans without a good paycheck.

Brian Tannebaum said...

See, I dropped a hint to you before to learn a little about the blogger before you start hysterically typing away about your own misery.

No, I never workds in BigLaw. I never wanted to. I'm one of those who went to law school to be a lawyer, not a overpaid clerk.

And what do I know about BigLaw? Just what I hear when I get weekly calls, and meet often with BigLaw associates and partners who want to breakout. They tell me what goes on there. I don't have to work in the sweatshop of overbilling and entitled young lawyers to know exactly what goes on there.

As to the other parts of your hysterics, I'll just assume you are a typical unhappy lawyer who misunderstood most of what it means to be a lawyer when you entered law school.

Anonymous said...

Just an aside, but maybe clients want attorneys that understand the difference between there and their.

But, in response to your comments, biglaw firms generally only hire from top law schools, so it's not all that surprising you didn't get the chance to work in biglaw. And why you need to whine about the lawyers that got those offers now. Why complain about big law firm salaries at all when you have no idea what the worth of an associate there is from personal experience? That makes you no better than griping that a law professor is talking about social marketing for law firms but has no practical experience on the subject. So you know that some people whine about biglaw because they're bitter and angry, don't want to be there, can't cut it there, etc. Wow; you're right, you must know much more than the people that work there and clients that hire them.

If you want to cut the salaries and benefits of your own employees or complain about small law associate salaries go for it. But that's not what you're commenting on here. You offer nothing to the conversation about biglaw associate salaries; frankly, your posts come off as whiny and jealous.

But, then again, what should I expect from an attorney that can't attempt to make an argument without using derogatory and snide comments like "dear" and the sarcastic use of "genuis," etc.

And I am beyond amused you assume I am typing about my misery, unable to get a job, etc. I'm just irritated by older attorneys (sorry, should I say attorneys in older generations?) like you complaining about biglaw associate salaries when you know nothing about the cost of law school and what it now takes to be able to pay those amounts of debt off, and the ridiculous personal/family/friend sacrifices associates make to earn those salaries and work the hours they do.

Brian Tannebaum said...


I was going to ask why a lawyer good enough to get a "pay off my law school debts dammit" job sitting in an office at BigLaw and reading documents would be too cowardly to put their name to their comments, but then I understand when you can't spell "genius," and write sentences like:

"And why you need to whine about the lawyers that got those offers now."

Why I need to whine?

You must be the darling of your firm.

It's clear now that you've read little of this blog or about me. Those that have, are laughing at you. I never applied to BigLaw. I became a real lawyer out of law school. I went to the public defender's office because I wanted to try cases and defend those charged with crimes. I went to law school to be a criminal defense lawyer, not to get a check when I graduated because that's to what I was "entitled."

In the last 15 years, I've had 3 opportunities to take my practice into a BigLaw firm, but chose not to, because unlike you, I didn't and don't need a boss, or someome to pay me because unlike you, I know how to represent a client and get paid.

Had you read the post on which you continue to throw up all over yourself, you would understand (but probably not) that it is not I who is whining, it's cowardly lawyers like you who bring nothing to the practice of law except an expectation that your loans will be paid because that's what you "deserve."

I won't make you thank me for providing an anonymous way for you to show how completely stupid you really are.

Oh, did I resort to calling you stupid? Geez. I'm sorry, but I don't know your name.

Robert Louque said...

To Anonymous:

I am one of the "younger generation" law school graduates who understand what it is like to have crippling student loan debt.

I know the costs of a legal education and know how difficult it is to pay back student loans exceeding $100,000.00.

I graduated in the top 20% of my class in 2003.

I went to law school because I thought I wanted to be a prosecutor.

Today, I work as a public defender and have a private practice representing consumers in bankruptcy and other debt related matters.

I make far less than $160,000.00.

I could not be happier. I have my bad moments but I enjoy what I do.

I guess I just do not get it?