Work/life balance

Sorry to disappoint you, but no, we didn’t mean “babes” as in “gorgeous men” or “beautiful women.” (Besides, as we’ve been told by readers multiple times, those are like unicorns in Biglaw.)

For what it’s worth, we meant babies. People working in large law firms are always complaining about a lack of work/life balance, so we imagine it must be awfully difficult for them to get in quality time with their young children. Even being able to change a diaper or two would be a welcome change for some of these folks.

From the looks of it, at least one considerate law firm is trying to help its attorneys do just that…

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About a month ago, I read an article about a new position available for experienced attorneys at a certain Biglaw firm. The firm? Kilpatrick Townsend. The position? Something called a “department attorney.”

Before we get into what that is, and some of the implications for Biglaw if this new kind of position takes hold, let’s take a look at the listing of open positions on Kilpatrick’s website. Currently, the firm is advertising for nine associate positions, six of which are in the patent area (including two for patent “prosection” (sic) associates, who hopefully will be better at including all the letters in a word than the firm’s recruiting staff).

Want to be a department attorney? Well, for you there are ten open positions. The breakdown? Eight in trademarks, two in patent prosecution. The common denominator of those disciplines? Shrinking margins for Biglaw, in the face of competition from IP boutiques specializing in volume work, and bulked-up in-house departments doing more on their own. In light of those shrinking margins, the firm’s desire to hire more department attorneys than full-bore associates is understandable. At least they are hiring….

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Andrew L. SandlerEd. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories, brought to you by Lateral Link. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.

Andrew L. Sandler, Chairman and Executive Partner of BuckleySandler LLP and Chief Executive Officer of Treliant Risk Advisors LLP, is a recognized leader in financial services litigation, enforcement, regulation, and compliance. A wide range of financial services companies look to Mr. Sandler for strategic advice and to help them navigate complex litigation and civil and criminal investigations and examinations by federal and state enforcement and bank regulatory agencies. You can read his full bio here.

1. What is the greatest challenge to the legal industry over the next 5 years?

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* Fine Print as “Surrealist Masterpiece.” Because sometimes you need legal analysis involving Foucault. [Concurring Opinions]

* Speaking of fine print, the story behind an attack ad in Virginia is all about fine print. Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli is running an attack ad against Terry McAuliffe connecting him to the collapse of Global Crossing. The problem is the former Global Crossing workers in the ad thought they were talking to a documentary film crew about the company, not making an ad attacking McAuliffe. Should have read that waiver form more closely! [Mother Jones]

* JPMorgan Chase is dropping out of the student loan business. Must be getting too difficult to package likely defaults into some kind of billion-dollar derivative these days. [American Banker]

* A New York attorney candidly tells the world that dealing with his kids “is not my problem” because he has a long-suffering wife for that job. See conservatives, gay marriage hasn’t destroyed all the traditional families. [Dealbreaker]

* More analysis on the legality of intervention in Syria under international law. Welcome to the art of writing listicles, Lawfare! [Lawfare]

* A Q&A with Ignatius Grande of Hughes Hubbard & Reed on the importance of Twitter for clients and law firms. Intriguingly, Hughes Hubbard doesn’t have an active Twitter account. What gives? [Commercial Litigation Insider]

* The NFL’s concussion settlement wasn’t just about screwing over the former players, but about the NFL covering up its business practices. But who cares, KICKOFF TONIGHT Y’ALL! [Grantland]

* We’re not saying you should drop out of school, but if you do, try to make it like these people. Video embedded after the jump. [Bloomberg via YouTube]

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I got a raise when I had my baby, which was a very nice gesture from the Breaking Media CEO. It was also the only way I could keep working here. You see, child care costs are such in this city that before my raise I would have saved money by quitting my job and taking care of the baby full time, instead of having to pay somebody to look after him while I’m at work. Now, I’m a little bit past the break-even point, so I take what they pay me, give it to my creditors and my child’s nanny (we can only afford to have her for 30 hours a week, but I’ve gotten much better at typing with one hand, as I’m doing right now), and have a little bit left over to buy liquor and ad-free porn (err… typing practice). My wife’s salary handles all the rest — trivial items such as “rent” and “food.”

So yeah, I pretty much write every day just because I love spending time with you guys [weeping softly].

It turns out, I’m not alone. An article in the New York Times details the child-care squeeze on middle-class families. We’re not talking about “working poor” families who have always struggled with child care costs while Republicans berate them for not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. The article focuses on mothers with good jobs, professors and lawyers, who can’t really afford to pay someone to take care of their brood.

I suppose it’s not really a “Biglaw” problem. If you have one of those jobs, you can probably afford child care, or (more likely) afford for your spouse not to work. But if you don’t cash in with Biglaw, you’d probably settle for having your kids raised by wolves if the wolves came cheap….

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Last week, I wrote about face time considerations for associates. In Biglaw, face time is important for partners as well, albeit in a different way, with a significant exception for “pure” service partners.

Service partners are like associates when it comes to face time, with one major difference. In contrast to the often large constituency that associates need to please, your typical service partner needs to focus more exclusively on the specific rainmakers who provide them their work. That is why you will frequently find a service partner who is dependent on a particular rainmaker trailing that rainmaker around the office like a faithful Lab trailing a treat-bearing little kid. Or never leaving until the rainmaker leaves for the day. Vacations? Either timed to the rainmaker’s vacation, or planned with the idea that one would be perfectly accessible should the rainmaker call. Most of the time, this behavior by service partners happens naturally. When you have limited sources of work, it is folly not to stay close by those sources on a constant basis.

As important as face time is for senior and mid-level partners, it is even more important for junior partners….

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Shave, get dressed, grab your gadgets (firm-issued Blackberry, personal phone, tablet, etc.,) and head out the door. Car, train, ferry, subway — whatever it takes to get you to the office. Log into your computer, connect your phone for a charge, and head down the hall for a cup of coffee from the pantry. Throw out “good morning” as you pass people along the way. Grab your coffee, sneak a look at the vending machine, decide against starting your day with an 800-calorie cinnamon-glazed “bun,” and head back to your office. Dive into your morning inbox triage, and hope no one bothers you until your first conference call in 30 minutes. Congratulations on making it in for your next day in Biglaw’s Class A splendor.

Eight to fourteen hours later (depending on your seniority, amount of work, and level of domestic tranquility), it is time to pack up. To do it again the next day. You may not be happy with how things are going for you career-wise, and you may get jealous when your tech-sector friends brag about their 5:30 p.m. “after-work” pedicure and pastis-tasting session, but at least you were present at work for the day.

Face time is a concept that has gotten more media attention than it probably deserves. But let’s give it a little more….

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We last spoke about the best law firms for women (in terms of power and pay) in June, and back then, we noted that every few months, a new list or ranking system appears. We were right, because about two months have passed, and now there’s another “best of” list for female attorneys to pore over.

Today, Working Mother and Flex-Time Lawyers released their annual list of the 50 Best Law Firms for Women. These law firms are considered pioneers in the field when it comes to “attracting, retaining and promoting women lawyers.” These law firms stand out as “family friendly” workplaces, while at the same time ensuring that women shine in their equity partnership ranks.

These law firms are places you might want to work for. Which ones made this year’s cut?

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This week, the legal world has been buzzing over the New Republic’s exposé on the troubles of Biglaw, told through the tale of the long-suffering Mayer Brown. Our managing editor David Lat wondered if being a partner was the worst job in Biglaw, prompting some raised eyebrows. “Yeah, being a partner is so much worse than being an associate,” said a sarcastic commenter.

Sure, being a Biglaw partner right now isn’t “all peaches and cream,” but for most Biglaw associates — female associates especially — it never was. In fact, in our last discussion of the New Republic piece, very little attention was paid to the plight of one Mayer Brown associate in particular: the woman who was laid off during her maternity leave after surviving two prior rounds of layoffs.

The fragile state of the Biglaw world is such that women who dare to do crazy things like get pregnant must worry about whether they’ve put their jobs on the line. But just how bad is it to be pregnant at an Am Law 200 firm? It couldn’t be worse than being a partner, could it?

It could, and it is…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment of The ATL Interrogatories, brought to you by Lateral Link. This recurring feature will give notable law firm partners an opportunity to share insights and experiences about the legal profession and careers in law, as well as about their firms and themselves.

Rob Romanoff is Managing Partner of Chicago-based Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC. He is also a partner in the firm’s Trusts & Estates Group. Rob has extensive experience in estate, gift and income tax planning and broad-based wealth transfer planning for high net worth individuals and owners of closely held businesses and their families. Rob is a fellow in the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC).

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