Attorney-Client shake handsHow many lawyers find fulfillment in their work?

I don’t have statistics, but based on many conversations with attorneys over the years, the number who would trumpet themselves “fulfilled” has declined over time.

A bad economy has a lot to do with that, I’m sure. But finances cannot account for all of the disappointment we hear about. After all, most people (really) are not in it just for the financial return. Something deeper must be afoot.

Insight into what may be missing appeared in a great recent post at Above the Law. In it, lawyer Brian Tannebaum examines a few ways to strengthen the lawyer–client relationship. And in so doing, he points us toward a few elements that may be lacking in many a law practice. The absence of those ingredients is not a mere annoyance. Instead, it could be a serious impediment to fulfillment and satisfaction.

Brian Tannebaum

Brian Tannebaum

Interestingly, Tannebaum suggests that the elements that could make lawyers happier may be exactly the same elements that could make clients happier.

Imagine that—there’s a connection.

“Meaning” may be too complex a concept to reduce to a blog post, but I think Tannebaum’s done a great job at it.

Here’s how he opens his post:

“Lawyers like to say, ‘I’m a lawyer, not a psychiatrist.’”

“If you’re dealing with people’s problems, you’re a lawyer and a psychiatrist. While clients understand you are the person hired to try and resolve their legal issues, the not-so subtle secret of a successful practice is a slew of clients that believe their lawyer actually gives a crap about how their legal issues are affecting their personal life.”

Read the whole post here.

And what do you think? Have you found changes that improve your clients’ experience have also improved your outlook? Are you considering any law practice changes to make your own work more satisfying?

Above the Law law school rankings 2013Who wants to fight? Or, to put it more bluntly, who’s ready to discuss another ranking of law school quality?

In my experience, the gloves come off when attorneys chat about law school rankings, especially the one generated by US News & World Report (or, as those scorched law school administrators who won’t utter the title call it, Voldemort).

A lot rides on those rankings—for the schools. But even for those who earned their law school sheepskin long ago, the topic can cause rancor. Call it pride, loyalty or pissing rights, but many lawyers get right up in your grill when it is pointed out that their alma mater is ranked poorly or—heaven forbid—unranked.

To make matters even more challenging, the latest ranking comes to us from Above the Law. If you’ve ever read their coverage, you know that the authors are snarkily uninterested in your delicate feelings—and that’s when they write a run-of-the-mill news story. But turn them loose on law school rankings, and watch out.

To give you an idea of their boisterous approach to an endeavor that is typically veddy veddy stuffy, here is their opening paragraph:

“Most people attend law school to obtain jobs as lawyers. (Not butchers or bakers, or candlestick makers.)”

“If law school was just a cool place to chill out for a few years without building specific job skills, they’d call it ‘college.’ Jobs are important, and we think that law schools should be competing to place students in the best jobs, not the best libraries. And given the cost of obtaining legal education, we want to know which law schools put you in jobs that pay you money, instead of jobs the law school pays for. With that in mind we present our inaugural ATL Top 50 Law School Rankings.”

That opener is followed by a great graphic that explains their rubric in a visual way. After that, plunge in and read the rankings themselves.

If you’re not simmering (or cheering) after that, and you still want to enjoy the rankings game, be sure to read the burgeoning list of comments that follow the ATL rankings. Angry, much?

And as an added lure to entice you to scan the rankings, there’s this: Exactly one-third of Arizona’s law schools appear on this new list—barely. (Now you’ve got to look.)

How do you think their editors did? Do you agree with their rubric? How about their results? Let me know your thoughts at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

gender equality scale in the legal professionRecent news articles suggest that we may have quite a ways to go in regard to gender equity in the legal profession. (Cue the women lawyers, who mutter “Really?” in mock surprise.)

The first article reports on some discouraging trends that affect women lawyers. The study was done by the National Association of Women Lawyers, and the article notes:

“The Survey once again found that women’s compensation lags men’s at all levels, although this year the gap between male and female equity partner compensation has slightly narrowed.  NAWL Foundation President Stephanie Scharf, a Partner at Scharf Banks Marmor LLC in Chicago, who founded the NAWL Annual Survey, noted that ‘the gap between male and female compensation at the equity partner level does not correlate with male/female differences in billable hours, total hours or books of business, begging the question of how firms actually set compensation for their partners.’”

The complete news story provides some striking findings from the study. And you can read the entire study here.

Adding to the findings of that October report, I came across another recent article, this one in Forbes, that puts a more specific face on the challenges women may face.

Titled “Your First Name Is Killing Your Business,” the article’s author Victoria Pynchon writes:

“If we want work or more money for the work we’re already doing, it would be better for us to adopt a male name than to earn another degree, work longer hours, or, deliver higher quality work product.”

Drawing on the comments of Bloomberg financial analyst Susan Antilla, Pynchon points out that people think better of applicants when they have a male name.

Adding to the challenges that lawyer–parents face, an article I read just this morning is titled “Parenting Gets the Best of One Biglaw Associate.” In it, the author shares an email from one large-firm associate—who is also a young, married mother—as she describes why she is opting out of biglaw practice.

As author Elie Mystal opens the article, “It shouldn’t be so damn hard—in the richest country on Earth—to have a big-time job and be a loving parent. The struggles highlighted by this woman make me sad as a new parent myself.”

(Hat tip to lawyer Graham Martin for pointing me toward the ATL article. And thank you to the terrific dialogue on the LinkedIn page of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, which got me on this trail in the first place.)

Findings and data and experiences such as these rightly anger women lawyers and those who support their work. Does the research match your own experience? What do you think are the next major obstacles that must be overcome to achieve something closer to parity?

This morning, Chief U.S. District Judge John Roll will be laid to rest in Tucson. As we and others reported before, he was gunned down on January 8 in an attack that was directed at U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Many will undoubtedly attend the funeral mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church. But far more will be unable to make the trip. For those people, honoring the judge may be as close as your federal courthouse—or even the Web.

As Above the Law has reported, the Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Alex Kozinski, has ordered flags at all federal courthouses in the Circuit to be flown at half-mast. But he’s gone further than that. He wants to share what that looks like.

The Ninth Circuit website includes a growing photo gallery of flags at those courthouses. And Judge Kozinski asked Above the Law readers whether they could assist the Circuit: If you see that your local federal courthouse is not represented, please take a photo (with flag) and send it to the Circuit.

When I read the news item at ATL, I was a bit skeptical. For I could pretty easily picture in my mind’s eye what a courthouse looked like, and what a flag looked like. Aggregating hundreds of them would provide a lot of volume, I thought, but not much insight.

Well, I was wrong. As a visual tribute to a fallen judge—one of the Circuit’s own—it is very powerful. I found myself peering intently at every courthouse, moved more and more as I scrolled down the page.

As you might guess, Arizona’s own federal courthouses reside near the top of the page. Take a few quiet moments today to look at the page and to think on John Roll’s service. In an upcoming issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we will run a memoriam to the judge, who was a legal leader and a friend to the magazine.

Three related items:

  • The State Bar of Arizona, in partnership with the University of Arizona, has established the John M. Roll Memorial Fund. Money used will provide scholarships to students attending Judge Roll’s alma mater, the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. More information is here, and you can contribute here.
  • Because every interaction is an opportunity for learning, this news story got me wondering about the origins of flying flags at half-mast. Leave it to Wikipedia to make all clear. Among the fascinating facts:

“The tradition of flying the flag at half-mast began centuries ago, to allow ‘the invisible flag of death’ to fly at the top of the mast—which signified death’s presence, power, and prominence. In some countries, for example the UK, and especially in military contexts, a ‘half-mast’ flag is still flown exactly one flag’s width down from its normal position, and no lower, to allow for this flag of death. This was the original flag etiquette.”

  • Next week, I will report on another look at courthouses—this one will be in book form, used to celebrate a law firm’s anniversary and to exhibit pride in its trial accomplishments.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,434 other followers