My Shingle has proven to be a great resource for me given my plans to establish my own law firm next month. I came across this eye-opener of a post about the problems that many large law firms face. It really boils down to how the work-home balance is completely out in large law firms (and even non-existent in some). That being said, this is worth the read as the issues discussed apply just as much to business generally as they do to law firms:
Tony DiRomualdo has this interesting article, Why Corporate Culture Counts, at the Wisconsin Technology Network.
(7/7/05) that discusses the relationship between corporate culture and
values. He identifies examples of companies like Southwest, where
positive corporate culture boosts employee morale, giving the company a
leg up on competition. But on the other side of the scale, he uses the
large law firm as an example of a corporate culture which lacks the
ability to tolerate accomodation of family life.
Di Romualdo relies on this 2004 Study
by Laura Rikleen, head of a Boston Bar Association Task Force, that
describes how law firm culture subverts any hope of work family
[Rikleen’s] task force points a finger directly at the profession’s emphasis on
`total commitment’ as a basis to enter the partner ranks as the key
debilitating factor affecting the work environment, attraction and
retention of talent and work-family balance within the industry. It
found that the profession’s concept of total commitment translates to
pushing all non-work obligations aside on a regular basis as a symbol
of one’s commitment.
The task force believes that the current system not only makes
work-life balance unachievable, but will in the long run hurt law firms
because it alienates large numbers of employees and potential employees
while requiring unsustainable levels of growth in billable hours. They
describe the situation bluntly, "We are in danger of seeing law firms
evolve into institutions where only those who have no family
responsibilities — or, worse, who are willing to abandon those
responsibilities— can thrive. This is not an exaggerated perspective;
it is a description of where many think we are heading and where others
think we have already arrived.
I have spent my whole working life in a very similar environment and I really don’t understand why management in such firms haven’t seen the writing on the wall. I firmly believe that when you begin to treat your staff like human beings and respect the need for a degree of balance then you really begin to create something great.