~ written by Jill Snitcher McQuain
While no two days at the Columbus Bar are the same, there is one theme that seems to be taking center stage each and every day: jobs. Whether you are a law student, a new lawyer, a seasoned lawyer, or a paralegal, jobs appear to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Law students, faced with current employment trends, are fearful of what’s on the horizon for them, and they are looking now for jobs that might lead to future opportunities. New lawyers are somewhat panic-stricken about how they are going to pay their law school loans - many are working more than one job (and not necessarily a law-related job), to ensure stability and pay their debts. Some of our more seasoned lawyers are leaving the large law firm to start out on their own, or leaving the practice altogether and are looking for something new. Paralegals are seeing more associates doing the work that paralegals might traditionally have done, and law firms don’t seem to be hiring as many paralegals as they once did.
Employers are also experiencing challenges. Tightening budgets force them to be creative about who and how many they will hire. I just read an article about how some law firms are hiring “career associates” - attorneys who are not on the traditional partnership track, and who command significantly lower salaries because of it. For some lawyers, this is appealing, because it offers work-life balance. For employers, it’s a savings. Other employers are looking more seriously at hiring lawyers on a contract basis. They might hire one or more lawyers to handle a specific legal matter or to conduct document review in a particular case, without a long-term employment commitment and with reduced overhead expenses. These trends cause one to contemplate (maybe even pontificate about) the future of a law firm and the lack of future leaders or management.
All of these dynamics suggest that we will see a significant shift in law firm management in the coming years. So what are we going to do about that? You tell us.
We are working diligently to develop member benefits and resources to address the needs of our legal community. We’ve just entered into a partnership with Experis, of the Manpower Professional group, to expand our existing career placement services to include contract lawyers (among other things). Through this partnership, Experis is the employer - relieving our local law firms and corporations access to qualified talent on a limited basis without having to incur the overhead associated with permanent employees. And, our member employers will receive a discount on services provided by Experis - prices below market.
With this partnership, come a wealth of resources provided to Columbus Bar members by Experis. Information about hiring trends, tips on marketing yourself; training courses for employees and employers alike; and access to jobs nationwide. Be sure to check out our website for details. And, if there isn’t something there you’d like to see, give me a call - I’d be happy to talk about additional ideas.
We’re also considering creating a committee designed specifically to confront issues affecting the future of the practice of law. This would be a virtual committee - one that doesn’t necessarily meet at the CBA like other committees; rather, they meet online, via a blog or webinars. This allows our committee members to comment and share articles and resources of interest from all over that look at issues affecting how lawyers practice. If this is something of interest to you, please give me a call - we’re still in the formative stages of this idea, and your input would be greatly appreciated.
For our new lawyers, there’s Columbus Bar inc - a professional development center for new lawyers starting their own solo practice. Inc is short for incubator – a pilot program intended to accelerate the successful development of new lawyers in an environment that provides an array of business support resources. Participants will gain valuable experience and ongoing education to help build their professional career, develop sound business management skills, and engender high ethical standards. And, in exchange for the services they receive, participants will be required to perform pro bono legal services. This pilot program is still in its infancy (no pun intended).
Participants have access to referrals, training programs, specially designed networking programs, and an on-site mentor. One office within the Columbus Bar inc suite is dedicated for on-site mentors to meet with the attorneys and provide guidance. The mentoring relationship is a fundamental part of what Columbus Bar inc is providing to new solo attorneys to enhance their likelihood of success. If you are willing to be a volunteer mentor, Columbus Bar inc would appreciate adding you to the existing list of retired judges, practice-area specific attorneys, and general practitioners.
I have no doubt that we could be doing more, and I would expect that employment issues will be among the items our association leadership discusses in the context of our Long Range Plan. Development of the Long Range Plan will begin over the summer. So, if you have some thoughts, ideas or feedback to share, call me, e-mail me, or just stop by. We’d welcome your input about this or other issues the Columbus Bar should be addressing.
Jill Snitcher McQuain