Filed under: Law reform
Some thoughts on our approach by Matt Steilen, a third-year law student at Stanford:
To understand Law Students Building a Better Legal Profession you have to appreciate that its approach to changing private practice is based in the market for legal services. While its members are advocates for change in the sense that they aim to improve conditions for associates at leading law firms, they are not advocates in another sense. The idea is not simply to ask of firms that they change, but to choose to work at firms that are changing and have changed. In other words, students are not the advocates. The market is.
Law students at the nation’s top schools are valuable assets for firms. Ask managing partners what their top priorities are for ensuring the continued success of the firm, and almost all will tell you that recruitment of the very best young associates is absolutely critical. Top schools are producing far fewer graduates than firms need to fill their ranks. This is why large firms have massive budgets for finding, wooing, hiring and retaining law students. And this is why it will matter to firms if some of their best candidates decline offers out of concern about the environment they are about to enter.
In this sense, Law Students Building a Better Legal Profession is not about “whining.” It is not about complaining that the life of a lawyer is hard. The life of a lawyer is hard, and the group’s members and leaders acknowledge that. Instead, Law Students Building a Better Legal Profession seeks to enable students who have reasonable concerns about their careers to make informed choices about the alternatives available in the market. And in so doing, the group aims to incentivize the managers of leading firms to make workable choices about billing, hiring, and community involvement. While we have done a considerable amount to educate ourselves about the business of law, managing partners are the experts. They have the tools to address why many young associates leave before they can produce value for the firm. They have the tools to improve conditions for associates. If they do so, they will be better able to recruit the associates they want.
Law Students Building a Better Legal Profession understands that law is a demanding profession. It is this, in part, that has attracted many of us to the field. But this is not the only demand we recognize. We choose not to simply set aside the demands of other aspects of our lives. We choose not to work in environments that lack diversity, openness, and a commitment to professionalism and respect. These are reasonable choices. And when they are made on the basis of accurate information, they make an advocate of the market.