It seems I’m not alone in my criticism of the crazy work practices of the law firm. May I recommend to you the excellent blogspot of “Shop Steward”, organiser of the “Junior Lawyers’ Union”?
In the dim dark days when I was an articled clerk, I noticed on the occasions where I was required to work late, it was often not because there was a lot of work, but because the partner in charge of the project was disorganised and had no idea of how to manage people, time and/or projects. It was a matter of luck as to whether the partner supervising you had any clues as to management.
On one occasion, I stepped in at the last minute to help a partner who had left it until the day of a large transaction to prepare over 100 documents, and had then discovered that the solicitor and the articled clerk who had been assisting him in the transaction had gone on holidays. I did my best, but there was not a clear record of the names of all the companies involved in the transaction. At about 9pm, when I raised this issue, the partner in question shouted “Well, why the f&*k don’t you know? What the f&*k is your problem?”. I suggested that it could be because I had stepped in at 3pm that day to assist him and no one had left any proper records before they went on holidays. I made sure I never worked for that partner again. Well, I left the firm shortly afterwards, so I didn’t have to!
I suggest there are a number of reasons why law firms have this crazy culture of maximising hours at work:
- Those pesky six minute units (don’t want to be a broken record, see my earlier post on the topic);
- Partners are promoted for maximising billings and getting and maintaining new clients, not for efficiently managing people, projects and time;
- Partners don’t need plan out a task properly because there is an inexhaustible supply of eager young things waiting to do their bidding and work until 3am on a Saturday morning if necessary; and
- The personality of most lawyers I know (driven, ambitious, intelligent, a bit crazy) lends itself to workaholic behaviour.
It doesn’t matter to the firm that people like myself end up getting fed up and leaving, because there’s plenty more cannon fodder where I came from. I haven’t got any objection to working hard when it is necessary, but it irritates me when I am working at 10pm because someone else can’t organise their way out of a paper bag or hasn’t thought something through properly.
I believe that there is something all wrong about the law firm and its priorities. It’s time to stand up, comrades, and say that it isn’t right!