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Building a Better Legal Profession, but for Whom?

Nearly two years ago to the day, the law student group Building a Better Legal Profession came on the scene, intent on using its collective bargaining power and impressive top-tier law school credentials to force law firms to sign on to a list of principles that would make BigLaw a kinder, gentler and more nurturing environment. Fast forward two years and BigLaw still isn't any kinder or gentler. But now, instead of inducing stress and misery through mind-numbing 60-hour work weeks or lack of work/life balance, firms are inflicting pain through mass layoffs.

As the National Law Journal reports, the BBLP is still around and committed to its original mission of
forcing significant changes to firms' billable hour requirements, diversity and the commitment to pro bono work. At last week's national BBLP meeting, 50 students gathered to discuss issues like low diversity and poor female partnership rates, and even the possibility of a union, which was discussed at a session lead by organizer Mary Kay Hentry of the Service Employees International Union. Ralph Nader also spoke, criticizing law firms for their inefficiencies and overcharging, which he referred to as "grand larceny."

As I read through the summary of the BBLP meeting, the only thought that ran through my mind is "Who are these people building a better profession for?" All around, BigLaw is crumbling as layoffs mount. Thousands of associates are unemployed, most of whom are so desperate to keep their résumés up to date that they're working for free. And here's a bunch of law students who are making demands that might make it even harder for big firms to remain competitive without ever once considering whether these changes will make BigLaw so prohibitively expensive that firms will lose even more clients to boutiques. At the end of the day, BBLP may come up with changes that makes the profession better for a bunch of highly qualified top-tier law students. But what about firm clients? And more importantly, what about the law students who can't find jobs at all?

Who are they building a better profession for?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on April 7, 2009 at 03:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

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