Law firms operate under a broken business model!

Each fall the new associate classes arrive at the nation’s large law firms. They come in humming the refrain from the John Fogarty song Centerfield: "Put me in coach, I’m ready to play – today." Their enthusiasm is built on summer associate classes filled with softball games, crab and shrimp buffets and amusement park outings. How hard can it all be? Then, of course, reality sets in.

That reality was highlighted in a recent article in The Wall Street Journal: associates at major law firms are highly dissatisfied with their lot in life. The associates are cynical, with a prevalent attitude of, "This is a dysfunctional system, and it’s not my fault." When I read this, another article in another publication came immediately to mind. In The American Lawyer magazine’s 2006 "AmLaw 100" listing of America’s most profitable law firms, the average profit per partner at these firms passed the $1 million mark for the first time last year, with the top 10 firms booking profit per partner of $2 million or more. I believe that, on several levels, one can draw some definite correlations between low associate satisfaction and soaring profitability at the major firms.

See the balance of this article at the ABA.


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