You've Forgotten What Law Firms Demand

There is a great article by Edward Honnold, titled “Love Advice for Lawyers”. Here are the first two paragraphs.

"You're never at home", complains Susan, a 42-year-old lawyer turned homemaker, glowering angrily at her spouse of 12 years. "How do you expect our marriage to work if you never see me or the kids? You're always running back to the office. And when you're at home, it's as if your clients are here too. They're obviously more important to you than we are."

"That's unfair," counters John, a 45-year-old litigation partner. "You're just as busy as I am; you're always running off with the kids or to your exercise class or your endless errands. You're too tired to have sex. You get angry when I don't praise your work, but when do you ever thank me for making the money? You've forgotten what law firms demand. Sometimes I dread coming home." And so it goes in lawyers' love lives.

“You’ve forgotten what law firms demand.” John did not say what “client’s demand” although they are demanding. He did not say what the “law demands” although it is very demanding. On the tip of his tongue, a litigation partner, was “what law firms demand”.

Law firms are what we make them. They do things for our reasons. If they cause harm it is because we let them inflict harm. We carry the harm inside ourselves; it infects our entire life and our loved ones. It is ironic that John dreads going home. The one place in the world he should be comfortable. Yet I don’t think he is happy staying at the office? The lack of connection with his family hurts, but there seems to be a Catch-22 going on here. A hall of mirrors not entirely of his own making, but one that as “partner” he seems to perpetuate.

John and Susan are being deprived of “balance” in their lives because of “what law firms demand”.

Deeper in the article Susan asks, “Who wants to employ a lawyer mom who's been out of the job market for eight years and who needs part-time work tailored to her kids' school and vacation schedules? And how do I manage my life if we get divorced?"

The answer is that every law firm should want to hire Susan. Every law firm should hire Susan based on her abilities as a lawyer, not the ability to put in face time at the office. Every law firm should give Susan the control to organize her life. The fact that John is at the office and Susan is not does not make John a better lawyer. Just a reality check: if Susan can write a brief at home during the kids’ nap time, then more power to her. If John needs to be at soccer practice on Thursday at 3:00 and gets his work done at the kitchen table at midnight, more power to him. Why lay waste to human lives because of what “law firms demand”?

Written By:Moe Levine On February 21, 2016 11:29 AM

Law firms are what we make them

wrong

law firms are what customers (clients) demand

Written By: Jack Casey On February 21, 2016 12:16 PM

Moe,

To say “wrong” and pass the issue to the shoulders of the clients is to give short shrift to the issue. I can see that from the perspective of what “client’s demand” they do exert a good deal of influence on a law firm. I am of the view this will and should increase. Even so I don’t see how clients demand that partners vote to de-equitize other partners for example or expel young attorneys because of “fit” rather then on the quality of their work. Granted these examples don’t occur in all law firms and I am now guilty of a little short shrift here myself but I do feel law firms are, by several degrees, more a creature of the people who create them than the clients who pass through their halls. If those who create law firms apply their passions to exploring other structural options they can avoid many of the “self induced” issues that push more lawyers to choose solo practice over that of a firm structure. I am convinced this would also structure the customer’s expectations and experience to the benefit of the profession and the individual attorney’s quality of life.

I am concerned about the loss of a safety net for the practice of law in the context that this loss has a negative effect on the people’s access to participate in their society given that engaging legal services in our society is now unavoidable.

Jack

Written By:Moe Levine On February 22, 2016 07:19 AM

you write, "more a creature of the people who create them"

my 2 cents is that this is denial.

business law firms behave exactly as they do because this is what their clients want. As opposed to any other business, law firms are almost completely transparent to business clients (billing in .1 does that) and will say or do anything the client demands.