Lawyer Perks vs. Lawyer Lifestyle

From an article in yesterday’s NYT:

The benefits for lawyers have burgeoned in recent years as firms pull out the stops to attract top-notch talent. While perks for the partners have always been common, many are now finding their way to associates — young lawyers who have not yet made partner.

This is asked against the background of the tough outlook for students who aren’t at a top-tier law school and the widening gap between their likelihood of (early) success and those who are the targets of such recruiting efforts (e.g. the ivy leaguers).

The benefits go beyond the laptops and BlackBerrys, late-night rides home, Friday beer-and-pretzel fests and sports tickets that are standard fare at many large and midsize law firms. Many of the new perks recognize a lifestyle change that law firms are just coming to grips with.

[…]

“Money is not the only thing that drives these lawyers right now,” said Marina Sirras, who runs a recruitment firm in New York for lawyers. “They want to be able to have a family and enjoy their family. This has never been as hot an issue.”

And,

Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, a 600-lawyer firm based in New York, offers employees a service akin to a personal issues coach and psychotherapist through a deal with Corporate Counseling Associates of Manhattan. The consulting firm has a battery of staff psychologists and social workers to provide advice on issues including stress, anxiety, depression and divorce.

So what are the real justifications for these perks? Is it the emergence of a work/life congruence (“They want to be able to have a family and enjoy their family”) that firms are now realizing is necessary for balanced happiness (which maybe equals retention) or is it just the simple battle for the best of the newest crop of law-school-youth?

[Warning Commentary]
Pardon me being blunt: The “lifestyle” justification is just a cover. Doesn’t it seem disingenuous for a firm to offer personal issues coaches and psychotherapists when the its more than likely that its the firm (and the firm’s environment and demands) that is causing them to need these services?

Jaime Heller of the WSJ.com Law Blog asks some other relevant questions: “Why is the gulf between legal haves and have-nots seemingly so wide? Many aspiring JDs would do nearly anything for these 160k jobs. Meanwhile, the top-school grads who land them not only get the salary and resume stamp, but also these perks. Is this all on the merits? Is there a talent differential that justifies this outcome?“).

As an average student at a third-tier law school, I enjoyed seeing the latter two questions. These questions need to be asked especially when everyone acknowledges that success in law school does not correlate to success in private practice.

If you have a job you enjoy you are better off than most. For that, and many other reasons, I give thanks this year to my blessed station in life.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

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