Parents

[Y]ou have one child who is a lawyer; you don’t think twice about it. You have two, and you write it off as a coincidence. You have three, and you begin to lie awake at night and scratch your head. You have four, you’re pretty sure there is a special place for you reserved in the hereafter.

– Dean Joseph Kearney of Marquette University Law School, recalling one of his father’s quips about his children’s career paths.

If you ask a small-firm attorney what is the advantage of a small firm over Biglaw, most will tell you that smaller size makes firms more nimble and better able to adapt to client needs and market changes. It stands to reason, then, that small firms could revolutionize the law firm model. But what changes should small firms make? And how much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

To answer these questions, I spoke to Mae O’Malley, founder of Paragon Legal, and a visionary when it comes to offering legal services. Paragon Legal is one of the fastest growing alternative legal models. Their model is to offer highly-qualified attorneys (with a minimum of 8 years of experience) to Fortune 500 companies, akin to a contract-attorney arrangement.

This model allows the client to obtain top-notch legal help for a fraction of the cost of Biglaw. The arrangement is also appealing to high-caliber lawyers, particularly women, who look to balance their professional growth with their family obligations. In light of the model’s success, it’s not surprising that Fortune recently featured O’Malley as an individual “fixing a broken legal industry.”

What advice does Mae O’Malley have for reforming legal workplaces?

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Yesterday we received a fairly provocative question in the Above the Law inbox. A reader asked us to assess the role that parents play — or should play — in their children’s decision to go to law school:

With all the talk about the perils of going to [law school], I wonder what role people’s parents play (or should play) in the decision…. While there are some older, more independent law students, I think the vast majority of matriculating students have had or still receive some form of parental support. How could a parent tell their child not to follow their dreams? Seems like that would never happen in my generation of helicopter-parented children. Yet that discouragement is exactly what could prevent a lot of poor decisions to go to low-ranked schools.

I think it cuts the other way. I don’t think that parents are allowing their kids to go to law school because they want to be supportive of their kids’ dreams. I think that more parents are forcing their kids to go to law school, especially lower-ranked law schools, as they vicariously relive their lives through their children.

Absent parental meddling, there wouldn’t be nearly as many people applying to law school….

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