The downturn in the legal economy has been hard on many new and young lawyers. They have faced lengthy deferrals and withdrawals of job offers, layoffs, shrinking job prospects and lower salaries. While unwelcome, these new burdens are at least understandable; they reflect the laws of supply and demand at a time when there is simply less legal work to go around. What is not understandable is the surprising amount of criticism heaped upon younger lawyers, offered as if to justify placing a disproportionate share of the economic downturn on their shoulders.

The criticism comes from law firm managers, in-house counsel and former lawyers who now comment on the legal profession. They most likely represent a minority view, but they are vocal. They say that clients are no longer willing to pay for the work of young associates because their work is “worthless.” We might expect clients to make any argument that could lead to a lower bill, particularly during an economic downturn. But it is wrong and surprising for experienced lawyers inside and outside of firms to acquiesce in, even reinforce, this line of argument.

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