9.25.2006

Getting back on the track...

Carolyn Elefant at Inside Opinions posted about a really interesting law.com come article that discussed the legal field's very recent attempt to make the return to law easier for women who chose to "opt out" for a few years. From the article:
Traditionally, it's been an arduous journey for attorneys who have stepped off the treadmill to get back on. "It's not impossible, but it can be very difficult for people who haven't kept their hand in, in some way," says Marcia Shannon, a career-transition counselor with Shannon & Manch, a Washington, D.C.-based legal-outplacement and legal-management consulting firm.

But the market may be lending a hand. With attrition rates for associates as high as ever, some lawyers are looking for ways to reach out to nontraditional pools of talent.

Both the American Bar Association and the University of California's Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco are launching initiatives aimed at helping attorneys who have stopped practicing maintain their connections and ease their transition back into the profession. Two attorneys from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom started the ABA project, Back to Business Law, in New York this past spring. The goal of the pilot project is to give nonpracticing attorneys a way to keep abreast of major legal developments and to give them opportunities for informal networking. The program will soon expand to Washington, D.C. Ann Ford, the managing partner of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary's D.C. office, was so taken with the project when she read about it in May that she decided to organize a D.C. chapter.
Now that's what I'm talking about. It's nice to see that law firms are slowly but surely beginning to realize that in about 10 years or less, they're going to be shit out of luck unless they begin to get creative. Sooner, rather than later, I predict that they're not going to be able to fill the ranks with the newly graduated Gen Y-ers who seem to want more out of life than just cash--and lots of it. As I've said in the past, once the men begin to actively seek balance, then things will start look up for the other half of the human race.

Another interesting point from the article is one that I've also mentioned a few times in the past--the accounting field is an indication of what's on the horizon for law firms, and they're light years ahead of us:

Perhaps law firms should take a cue from the accounting industry.

"Law firms are using a flawed accounting system," says Williams, who, through her work for the Center for WorkLife Law and as co-director of the center's Project for Attorney Retention, has been trying to convince law firms that there are sound business reasons for them to embrace more flexibility in the workplace.

The accounting industry has come up with innovative programs to stem the tide of attrition it has been facing, Williams says. For example, one Deloitte & Touche initiative allows its employees to leave the company for up to five years while staying connected to the company and keeping their skills current through firm-sponsored training, mentoring, networking events and ad hoc assignments.

Other accounting firms have followed suit and adopted forward-thinking family-friendly policies. "The reason is that they do the numbers," Williams says. "They know how much it is costing them to churn and burn." They have realized that it is economically in their interest to retain and re-recruit the employees they have already trained, she adds. The Project for Attorney Retention estimates that the cost of replacing a second-year associate, for example, runs about $200,000.

"Law firms are driving up expenses by driving out valuable workers one after another," Williams says.
I can assure you that one thing law firm partners understand is cold.hard.cash. They're just not very good at managing it. And, they're aging dinosaurs that aren't at all comfortable with change and have a hard time spotting new trends. But mark my words, they'll figure this one out soon enough.

I have a hunch. A strong one.

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