On the fashion front, last week's WSJ piece Law Without Suits: New Hires Flout Tradition, notes that in today's world of "business casual," it can be "difficult to get young associates to shift gears and don traditional dress when the need arises." While the article is heavy on fashion sense, it highlights problems of both cross-generational expectations in law firms and the role of image and created persona. (See the discussion in the comments section of the WSJ Law Blog, for more fun on this issue).
For the record, while I've severely criticized role-morality and the common practice of donning false "lawyer identities," I have to side with the traditionalists here. If we really desire to love our client-neighbors and employer-neighbors in and through our law practice, sacrificing a little comfort or a little cool is the right thing to do.
On the billable hours front, young lawyers may be catching a break. In keeping with the blaring headline of the August 2007 ABA Journal, THE BILLABLE HOUR MUST DIE!, firms are experimenting with alternatives. The February issue features Taming the Billable Beast, an article that describes three ways that firms are tinkering:
- Do away with first-year associate billing altogether;
- Do away with billable hours completely, moving to fixed-price and flat-fee billing;
- Drastically reduce the billable hour requirement for associates.
I am agnostic at present regarding the billable hour's consequence to the lawyer seeking to serve/love his or her client. It seems nothing more than a tool to help evaluate value. But, like every other lawyer, I've seen abuses, and I understand its unintended consequences, especially in the large firm culture. It's a topic worth chewing on and discussing.