In an op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal, controversial author-turned-lawyer Elizabeth Wurtzel (you read that correctly, she gained fame as an author and then became a corporate lawyer) ruminates on whether time spent working at BigLaw was really just one big waste:
The market has lost a dozen years worth of wealth in a matter of
months. Millions of hours of manpower put in by investment bankers on
Wall Street and the lawyers who enabled them -- the kind that brought
home those bright shiny bonuses that are now causing a populist
uprising in the hinterlands -- have been wasted away by what is kindly
called the credit crisis. And whatever lessons the powers that be might
learn from this adjustment -- that salary structure should change, or
that the billable hour is an anachronism -- it seems no one has stated
the obvious: The whole system is warped.
Wurtzel makes the point that BigLaw never changed because it lacked any semblance of self-reflection. Anyone with a soul, or even who "liked sleeping or dating or occasionally walking his golden retriever" found it easier to leave large firms instead of trying to change them from within. Moreover, she doesn't believe that Wall Street is learning any new lessons now. She writes:
I don't believe any of the major players are re-evaluating
their ethos -- only their decision to invest in sub-prime mortgages. And
this is foolish, since the problem is not just that the financial
instruments were bad bets, but that the corporate structure and the
feverish rush of it all are fundamentally flawed.
What's your view? Do you think this recession will change big firms?