After the 2004 elections, I briefly considered a move to Canada, but eventually discarded the idea as I slowly emerged from my post-election depression. But, when I came across this article, I again wondered, ever-so-briefly, if a permanent trip across the border was in order. Sadly, however, it turns out that our Canadian counterparts seem to be in the same boat as we are when it comes to work/life balance, so I guess I'll stay put for now.
The article describes the results of a study which concluded that in order to attract and retain new hires, Canadian law firms needed to redefine their concept of a "successful" lawyer. The article provided some interesting statistics and echoed many of my own opinions regarding the current legal workplace model:
The cost of replacing a young "associate" lawyer, one who is not yet a partner, is $315,000 in separation costs, recruitment and training, the study said.
The second report revealed that nearly two-thirds of all lawyers, male and female, have difficulty balancing their work and family life. And, given a choice, many would opt for a firm that valued family and personal time, they said.
In this third report, Catalyst examined lawyers' attitudes and perceptions toward their firms' efforts to address work-life balance. Its conclusions suggest the profession has some tough work ahead of it.
"Lawyer culture" is based on the assumption the lawyer has a non-working spouse or partner who is looking after the family, Catalyst noted. The road to a partnership in a large law firm is paved with long hours and little personal time, the agency also said.
Of course every time I read an article that describes the increasing dissatisfaction of both genders with the inflexibility of legal employers, I feel a bit let down since it always seems to be all talk and no action. The results of any number of studies indicate that turnover due to dissatisfaction is high, but nothing ever seems to come of it. While everyone outside the legal profession has a strong grasp on the economic impact of high attrition rates, lawyers in the upper ranks turn a blind eye to it.
The "old school" outlook reigns supreme no matter what the cost and gnarly old lawyers sitting high atop their thrones at the peak of the legal pecking order stubbornly refuse to change the legal employment landscape since "that's the way it's always been done." What they can't seem to comprehend is that it's not being done that way anymore, despite their repeated and adamant assertions to the contrary.
Many entry level attorneys, both men and women, have working spouses. And, once you throw a kid into the mix, it's inordinately more complicated and costly than it was in the "good ol' days" And if you have 2 kids or even 3--it's a whole new ballgame. Prepare to juggle 15 things at once while riding a unicycle. Trust me, it ain't pretty.
Eventually, the legal culture is going to have to change since, without the support of the worker bees at its foundation, it will collapse and the king will come tumbling down from his throne. Not a pretty picture, dear ruler. So, buck up and make the change--sooner rather than later. We'll be waiting.