Courtesy of The Wall Street Journal Law Blog is a story about some students at top law schools who are trying to convince the nation’s largest law firms to change their "sweat shop" practices and allow a better quality of life for associates. Perhaps this is a variation of some top corporations telling law firms who they should hire for diversity reasons. There are many aspects of this story that could fill volumes, from basic economics to the fact that law school graduates, mostly very young, will be paid by these firms annual salaries that are in the top few percentiles of annual income compared to what the rest of the country makes. Plenty of other occupations require hard toil for long hours, 6 or 7 days a week: think restaurant operators and most owners of small service businesses. However, most of them do not make the type of salary that law school graduates make at large law firms, no matter how many hours they work–certainly not starting on their first day on the job. In any event, most large law firms should be able to expect hard work in exchange for the large sums they pay their associates. Yes, many large firms have a pressure cooker environment and not unlike other aspects of most high-paying jobs of the working class, many aspects of it are unfair and not conducive to a relaxed lifestyle.There are many similarities to the Dickensian factories and manual labor occupations of yesteryear that demanded slave-like working hours, but one difference is that nobody is forcing these law school graduates to accept the large salaries if they do not like the working conditions and most can easily obtain other jobs, at salaries far above the average wage in this country, with less stress and unpleasantries–if they chose to do so.
UPDATE: Law students who think the following cartoon by Charles Fincher of www.lawcomix.com is not a possible reflection of reality, figuratively, might want to do more due diligence: