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The end of Big Law?

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Noam Scheiber has an interesting piece in TNR on the apparently structural changes that continue to wrack the big money tip of the legal services pyramid.

An under-discussed feature of the ongoing economic crisis in legal hiring and the related dysfunctions of the legal education system are the costs, both pecuniary and psychic, of “winning” (at least temporarily) the law school game. Like everything else in the employment market these costs tend to be affected strongly by gender:

As demeaning as life can be for a partner these days, it’s altogether soul-crushing for an associate. One of Mayer Brown’s young attorneys recalled scaling back her hours around the time her first child was born. The new schedule meant getting to the office by 6:30 a.m. so she could leave by 6 p.m., in time to put her daughter to bed. The problem arose when she had to work late, a not infrequent occurrence. “Then you’re in the office from 6:30 a.m. till 1 a.m. It sucks even more,” she says. Periodically, some of the women partners would lead seminars on striking a work-life balance, but she found them of limited use. “The primary talk we would get was: ‘Outsource your life. Your husband can stay at home. Or you can hire a cook, a cleaning staff, and you can [spend time with your kids] on vacations.’ Thanks.”

As somebody once said, getting a big law job (an outcome achieved by around 10% of current law school graduates) is like winning a pie-eating contest where first prize is more pie.

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