The Value Movement: Should New Associates Pay for the Privilege?
The notion that the real training of young lawyers happens at law firms across the country, where they receive not mere salaries, but astronomical salaries subsidized by corporations (and more than a few quasi-governmental agencies living off federal bailouts) is nothing new. But when What about Clients? raised the question, eyebrows raised simultaneously.
Why, Dan Hull asked, should we be paying these useless pups when they have zero to offer and we are giving them the tools to become lawyers? They should be paying us.
This met with catcalls of derision and ridicule. That Hull guy is "nuts, flip-city, kooby-shooby." But all visionaries are treated this way at first. After all, wasn't Hull the same guy who predicted that crocs would become a staple for the well-dressed partner?
Holden Oliver, however, immediately recognized the merit in Hull's outside-the-box thinking. The fact that Hull pays him played no role whatsoever. Holden writes:
As I have long been an advocate that the United States produces far too many lawyers, this "thinning the herd" argument resonates. Becoming an attorney has long been the default profession, for those who either lack an aptitude in math or have little stomach for human bodily fluids.
Should recent law graduates have to pay law firms for the experience they receive?...
At first glance for any prospective law student, or current law student, this idea seems ludicrous. However, it is a notion that the United Kingdom has been practicing for a hundred and fifty years. Additionally, this is similar to the education structure we have in the United States for doctors. Some argue that if this concept was implemented, only those with a strong passion for law would seek to go to law school.
When a young person has no clue what to do with his life after clutching that liberal arts sheepskin in his sweaty hand, he goes to law school. This isn't exactly the best reason to chose a career in the law. It tends to produce lawyers who lack much interest in doing the job, and likely contributes to their misery as they feel locked into a profession that cost them a bundle and doesn't fulfill the promise of social prominence and vast wealth. They tend not to care as much about their ethical obligations, or their clients' welfare, since they are in it for themselves rather than to serve. Some turn out to be really bad lawyers, even though they may be smart people.
From the perspective of serving the client, there's always the dirty little secret that big firms like to keep to themselves. When they put a half dozen young'ens on a case (and charge the client fees that would make a 20 year solo practitioner blush), it really isn't for the clients' benefit. They actually bring nothing, other than save an old-timer's back by carrying his heavy bag.
While this might seem only fair to the newbie lawyer, it's less than fair to the client who pays for the newbie lawyer to watch life in real courtrooms, or discover the joys of document review, or learn that there are certain words that are commonly expected to appear in certain legal documents, even though they don't make any sense to the newbie.
If we were to stop worrying so much about the young lawyer, and worry a little more about the client who is subsidizing the young lawyer's education, would that be wrong?
And if turned out that the default profession had a higher cost of entry so that college students thought twice about studying harder for organic chemistry rather than being forced into the only profession that has absolutely no prerequisites whatsoever, would that be wrong?
Don't poo-poo this idea so quickly. There's method to the madness.