It should come as little surprise to most attorneys that big law firms are, at their core, little more than billable hour factories. They treat associates like shit, offering little in the way of training or professional growth and feeding them the fruits of management incompetence. The terrible hours that most young lawyers deal with are as much the result of there being legitimate work to be done as they are the fault of partners failing to give assignments in a timely manner. Associates are forced to haggle with IT to get an internet browser with tabs. They are expected to shell out money to pay for their secretary’s bonus, even with they receive no bonus themselves. They are forced to do sophisticated legal work on decade old computers, become over-night experts on areas of law they’ve never heard of before, and manage the expectations of clients who are frustrated with the piss-poor performance of the partners over them.
And they do all this for a firm that gives them only one-ply toilet paper with which to wipe their asses. Well I say it’s time for associates to fight back. Associates are not entitled to a cushy work environment that showers them with money while handing out gold stars just for showing up, but they aren’t asking for this. They ask only not to be treated like dogs. Or, they would ask if the average big law associate was not such a spineless coward. To use the words of the philosopher Busey, the typical associate is “a gut maggot without any guts.”
While one minor foul-up by an associate can put them on the fast track to early termination, a major snafu by a law firm rarely has any consequence. This power imbalance means that while associates must be constantly on guard for their entire careers, law firms can treat their employees any God damn way they please, especially when the economy is weak.
Fortunately, the age of anonymous information exchange is making it possible for young attorneys to wield more power and control over their lives. The legal news and gossip blog Above the Law was (arguably) instrumental in forcing more firms to match market salaries when pay was last on the rise, and it has been the best source for keeping up with firms that have been particularly bad in how they treat their employees.
And now, Jimbo Wales has given the little guy another forum in which to fight: Wikipedia. The average law firm Wikipedia page lists general information about the firm, it’s history, practice groups, offices, notable clients, major cases, and any awards or honors. They are largely written by the firms themselves and read like advertisements. In fact, they may very well violate ethics rules on attorney advertising. But, these pages can also become a means for the legal community to remember the extraordinary douchiness exhibited by many firms.
And so it begins, the Law Firm Edit War. When you see a law firm behaving badly, don’t just pass off a link to your friends and coworkers, slap that news up on the firm’s Wikipedia page. So far, I’ve already hit four firms for their particularly bad handling of layoffs:
Latham, for the sheer size of their cuts and creation of the term “Lathamed.”
Pillsbury, for a partner leaking the news to his fellow passengers on a train.
Curtis Mallet-Prevost, for reporting record profits, laying off associates, and then giving those associates new work.
And Morgan Lewis, for sending laid off associates news on how well the firm is doing (including hiring) and inviting them to the firm’s holiday party.
If you want to join in, here are a few tips for making your changes stick:
1. Only post noteworthy news.
2. Keep a neutral tone.
3. Cite your sources and use the <ref></ref> tags.
4. Avoid naming specific people when possible. (Wikipedia is somewhat conservative on criticism of living persons.)
5. Most importantly, check back often. See if your additions have been removed, and if so, change it back and/or challenge the edit.
Negative press can hurt a firm’s reputation with its clients and with students it’s recruiting. So, the easier bad press is to find, the more firms will work to avoid it. Of course, many firms will simply turn to cracking down on people leaking news, but some might actually consider not being such giant dicks. And to that end, feel free to edit a page if a firm does something noteworthy to help its employees.