But, of course, we are all well aware of the limits and realities of the new economy. There is no manual to follow for success or comforting illusions of security. And BigLaw management, just like those who idealize a 1950s American Dream, are still often wistful for the security, status and rewards that a certain segment of their world was all but entitled to once upon a time.
As are many associates at elite firms, still proud of their place in the legal caste system. They have appropriated the rigid culture of rank and status that law schools and firms helped to foster. BigLaw recruiters and professional development staff now note a primary challenge in law firm evolution: attorneys of all genders see any alternative to the partner track even as they acknowledge the diminishing viability, stability and financial rewards as an inferior or mommy track.
And this is where my fellow attorneys and I must accept that our legal careers are unlikely to look as we imagined when completing our law school applications even if a primary reason was because law seemed a safe haven from a rapidly changing economy. Indeed, for many attorneys the legal profession seemed a neatly ordered and tabbed career path, securely fastened between the steel rings of law school, associate and partner. Many aspiring lawyers never entertained the idea that this binder would become worn, the rings broken and misaligned.
But as the rings loosen, we have the opportunity to slip out. Its not easy. Surely, many of us have been worn and slightly crumpled in the process. But a little wear and tear is better than fighting our way out from under the heavy weight of this binder once it is finally tossed to the bottom of the recycling bin.
Julia Claire Shapiro co-founded Hire an Esquire, the first cloud-based legal staffing service to help law firms and legal departments build and manage a flexible workforce. She also acts as a legal service industry research analyst and subject matter expert for a national consulting firm and has taught legal research and writing as an adjunct at Temple University Beasley School of Laws International LLM Program.