Mayer Brown and Platt 190 LaSalle library 1

How things change: This was the penthouse library on the top floors of 190 S. LaSalle in Chicago when I worked at Mayer, Brown & Platt in the late ‘80s.

If you are trying to figure out the legal profession’s big picture—especially the prospects for BigLaw—I’d recommend that you surf over to the amazing coverage offered up by The New Republic.

Recent offerings by the monthly magazine have included an examination of what’s new in law school thinking. In “How To Fix Law School,” they invite six experts to say what they would change about legal education.

Suggestions range from timing, to student loans, to the Socratic Method, and more.

(And if you’re in the mood—i.e., not already depressed—read Elie Mystal’s article “A Guide for Choosing a Low-Ranked Law School.”)

As good as the first New Republic piece is, I was riveted by an article in the same issue by Noam Scheiber titled “The Last Days of BigLaw: You Can’t Imagine the Terror When the Money Dries Up.”

Few commentators on big law firm life get the access Scheiber did. With that access, he develops a nuanced and detailed view into the inner workings of what many say is a devolving institution. Casual perusers may not want to know so much about (for instance) the differences between income and equity partners. But for those engaged in the legal profession, the insight is invaluable.

Perhaps part of my interest arose from the fact that I used to work at a firm he uses as an object lesson. In the late 1980s and just before law school, I worked in Chicago at Mayer, Brown & Platt (and then McDermott, Will & Emery). It was odd to have walked the same (conceptual) hallways Scheiber did. And even for someone who worked as a nonlawyer at Mayer Brown, his observations ring true.

Do his conclusions sound accurate to you? How’s BigLaw doing?

Breaking Bad actor Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman

Breaking Bad actor Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman

P.S. I also love The New Republic’s use of photos of actor Bob Odenkirk in his role of lawyer Saul Goodman on the AMC series Breaking Bad. Not familiar with it? Get watching.

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?

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