Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Building a Better Legal Profession - national conference of law students seeks change

We've all heard the old bromide "if it ain't broken, don't fix it," right?  Well, folks, when it comes to today's legal job market, it's more busted than Eliot Spitzer's political career.  The wheels have come off, the transmission's laying in pieces and it's leaking oil like a freakin' sieve. 

So a group of law students from top-tier law schools met over the weekend to discuss ways to change the current BigLaw culture with its emphasis on long hours as well as the "long green."  The student group, called Building a Better Legal Profession, has a website that, among other things, tracks the latest lay-off news, has a searchable database that shows the average billable requirements by city and ranks firms by quality of life factors such as the percentage of female attorneys, commitment to pro bono work, etc.

As a student representative told the National Law Journal:

The goal of Building a Better Legal Profession (BBLP) is to create collective action among students and associates from top schools to prod large law firms to implement what it says are significant changes needed in billable hour requirements, diversity and the commitment to pro bono work. Their hope is that students and associates from the best schools will not accept jobs at firms that do not change their ways.

'Over time, firms with low diversity numbers, poor female partnership rates, high billable hour requirements and poor commitments to pro bono will risk year after year of associate classes without graduates from the country's top law schools,'said Keisha Stanford, a second-year student at Stanford Law School who is a member of the executive board of BBLP

Despite the noble ideal, the cynic in me wonders how much, for example, Cravath's management committee is really going to listen.  A chair of one large firm, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, reacted to BBLP this way:  "Right now, the primary focus of law students and associates, like the firms for which they work or might like to work, should be the economy, and if and when the demand for legal services will rebound." 

These are interesting times we live in.

I am the scholarship dude.



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