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Triumph of the Competent Masochists?

Would you rather earn $1.2 million and live at the office or $500,000 but have some balance?   The choice is clear for one of Bruce MacEwen's readers, whose anonymous description of a young associate's view of the partnership chase appears  here  at  MacEwen's Adam Smith, Esq. Some excerpts:

"Of course many of us are put off by the hours firms expect from us and the difficulty of making partner, but there's also a strong sense, at  least among young associates I know, that, all else aside, making  partner simply isn't worth it. It's not that my generation is opposed to careers in private practice, it's that we are very much aware of  the fact that partners these days tend to work even longer hours than the already hard-working associates.  Fighting for partnership might be worth it to us if high hours expectations were merely a hazing process through which associates must pass to become a partner (i.e., something akin a medical residency). It also might be worth sticking around to compete in a partnership tournament with long odds if we viewed the brass ring as a prize worth fighting hard for. The problem is that most of us simply don't view BigLaw partnership as worth the price. Sure, it would be nice to make $1 million a year (or more), but if that means getting divorced, never seeing our children, and having no life outside of work, BigLaw won't find many lawyers from my generation interested in fighting for such a "prize." If all we cared about was making as much money as possible, we would have gone into investment banking.

The reader then goes on to ponder whether the current system produces the lawyers best qualified to lead the firm or simply "competent masochists, willing to put aside their personal lives."

While the above post represents a young associate's view, as MacEwen writes, many of the points raised, particularly the one about law firms rewarding "competent masochists" poses a serious question for the entire profession.   MacEwen wonders whether great "statesmen" lawyers of the past, like Elihu Root or Lloyd Cutler, might not cut it in today's law firm "tournament environment" or if their passion for the profession would enable them to transcend the confines and rigors of the billable clock. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on June 13, 2006 at 02:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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