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Forgive me for being totally confused, but are hard charging investment banks now the latest champions for a more humane, balanced life?

All this started last fall when mighty Goldman Sachs suddenly mandated that junior bankers take a 36-hour break from work on weekends. As you might recall, Goldman’s rule prompted me to ask whether this signaled the beginning of the nanny state.

Now, it looks like more stalwarts of capitalism are jumping on that nanny wagon. JP Morgan, Barclays, Deutsche Bank, and Credit Suisse have all adopted some version of that Goldman rule, reports The New York Times’s Deal Book.

But to all you free market lovers: Don’t sweat! It turns out that all this balanced life policy hasn’t changed the reality of work at all. In fact, it’s giving some employees even less control over their lives. Reports the Times:

At Goldman Sachs, which last fall instructed junior bankers to stay out of the office on Saturdays, one analyst said he recently had to work until 4 a.m. on Monday to complete a project on time. He also said he now felt more pressure to get his work done during the week, since he no longer has a full weekend to complete assignments.

That frustration is also echoed by an analyst at Barclays, which in February adopted a rule forbidding analysts from working 12 consecutive days. Even though this analyst had worked every day from Thanksgiving through February, including Christmas and New Year’s, he tells the Times: “I don’t know if my life improved at all [after the rule went into effect]. There’s not going to be a change in work just because we say one day has to be protected.”

But what has changed is that financial institutions are trying a new technique to seduce talent. They are delivering a message that millennium recruits want to hear (or banks think they do)—namely, that they are kinder, gentler institutions that care about its young. All of a sudden, big, arrogant Wall Street institutions want you to enjoy the weekend, go to a concert, see your family, and have a life.

Usually, the corporate world is ahead, but in this arena, law firms have the edge. Big Law has been using that work/life balance thing as a marketing tool forever, it seems. How often do firms claim to be respectful of people’s personal lives? And what about those beauty contests for law firms and companies that list the best places for women to work? And we all know how reliable those lists are!

Frankly, I’m disappointed that Wall Street is now getting all gimmicky about its culture. What happened to pride and honesty about naked ambition?

E-mail: vchen@alm.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/lawcareerist