Just posted in the Wall Street Journal Law Blog: a prediction that 2007 will bring "lots more associates," lots more hours and more revenue for law firms. These are conclusions from Citibank’s soon-to-be-released Managing Partner Confidence Index. The Journal’s post attaches several slides from the Index. So we have an expectation of more hours from a record number of associates, being paid record salaries by their firms, which have raised hourly rates to cover the record salaries.
When you read stories like this, did you ever wonder where those additional hours for the current and record number of new associates come from? Do firms have some hidden reservoir of hours that they can unleash on demand? Of course not. Does the notion of "make-work" ever creep into your thoughts when wondering about such things? How can it not? Sure, some firms may have more work, but measuring classes of new associates by the hundreds cannot be the answer, since it is unlikely that the "new work" is at the low end of the ladder.
What is so disturbing about articles and blog posts like those provide by WSJ is the absence of any discussion about clients of the law firms surveyed. It is almost as if the firms view themselves as independent of their clients, where the firm’s economic interests are the trump card.
I’m thinking of starting an over/under pool on when clients wake up and smell what they are actually being fed by their large firm service providers. Anyone care to hazard a guess?
PS–Check out the reaction of Susan Hackett, General Counsel of the Association of Corporate Counsel here.