The Unholy Law Trinity: The 3 Ways Law Firms Suck

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It’s a competitive world out there in Big Law – and promoting the right “culture” can be a task bigger than even Horatio might accomplish.  It’s just a big ask at Big Law.

But why exactly are the big firms so darn miserable, so unpleasant, so damn toxic?

It’s a question asked by Law360 who were able to go to some experts to unravel the unholy trilogy – the three factors that make Big Law firm suck.

Any guesses?

Well here are the three identified:


1. Inconsistent Feedback

“All firms that I’ve ever worked with struggle with this,” said Jill Huse [co-founder of professional services consulting firm Society 54 LLC]. “I have found that it can be very difficult for attorneys to hold their fellow colleagues and partners accountable, partly because they tend to avoid dealing with perceived conflicts and having difficult conversations.”

“While you would think that attorneys would be more comfortable than the average person at conflict resolution, when it comes to having these critical conversations with their colleagues, many are very resistant,” Huse said.

The most important issue here is the quiet, stealthy layoffs. You hear that things are okay, but at the same time there are murmurs about things not being quite right.  Next thing – you’re being told you’re not quite the right fit and the resume is out for another airing.

2. Little Room for Growth

[F]irms that allow associates to wallow in “assembly line” positions where they work a lot of hours with an opaque and winding path to partnership or other advancement opportunities are likely creating unhealthy competition, bad blood and unhappiness among their junior lawyers, [legal consultant Ed Poll] said.

As AbovetheLaw said on the matter:  Here’s a fun thought experiment for summer associates: look around at your healthy ranks. If you’re lucky, three of you will make partner.

3. Lack of Openness

“There is either a lack of communication being shared or bifurcated communication depending on a person’s status within the firm and what he/she is privy,” [Huse] said. “The lack of communication is often viewed as a lack of transparency, which will ultimately cause a loss of trust and declining morale.”

Learning about things second- and third-hand is hardly the way to deal with associates and partners.  Waiting for news on mergers, on compensation issues, on layoffs.  Its an issue that resonates with lawyers throughout the Kingdom that is Big Law.

Again, from ATL:  So law firm powers that be: be aware of the misery and distrust your standard operating procedures are leaving in their wake. And lowly associates — maybe you should start working on your exit strategy.

3 Ways Firms Bring Out The Worst In Attorneys [Law360]

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