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Nowadays, if you’re an associate working at The Firm, you’re probably enjoying a skyrocketing salary. You might even be making more money than your parents ever did, unless, of course, mom or dad happen to be partners at The Firm, in which case they are making a lot more money than you are. Still, despite what you may have learned during your employee orientation program, money isn’t everything. And it certainly isn’t the only thing on the minds of lawyers — or even prelawyers. Other benefits are also important and come into the equation. Exhibit A for the above point is summer associates who spend a couple of months at The Firm and then return to campus comparing notes with classmates about their summer experience. The conversations surrounding such comparisons rarely revolve around the type of assignments the summer associate completed or what the work environment was like at The Firm. Instead, they discuss which firm had the best parties, the best free gym program, the best weekend trips and how few meals they had to pay for over the course of the summer. That number, by the way, can almost always be counted with the fingers on one uncalloused hand. Law firms are now paying close attention to what their competitors are paying associates, and then matching that amount. Thus, in this category, the differences between firms are often negligible or nonexistent. The real challenge has become offering something over and above. Many legal employers are therefore looking for other sweeteners they can provide to keep their lawyers happy — and keep them from leaving The Firm. Now, it has become apparent, firms are also competing with each other to see who can throw the best benefits into the mix. A recent survey of America’s largest law firms produced an interesting list of services being provided to the overworked attorney. Some of the items on the list are pretty darn good. They include an investment pool where associates can participate in the purchase of clients’ stock, after-work happy hours, in-house travel agencies, home buying assistance, office decorating allowances, museum memberships, backup child care, free sodas, language lessons and tickets to sporting events. This isn’t your father’s law firm. Many of the benefits The Firm is offering associates are aimed at one of the major side effects of practicing law — stress. On the list of law firm benefits are subsidized chair massages, yoga classes, gym memberships and mental health care. I suppose the theory here is that while The Firm will give you stress it can also help alleviate it. HOME SWEET HOME There are several other interesting items on the list. Sidley & Austin, for example, boasts that it organizes blood drives for its lawyers — presumably to go along with the sweat and tears associates are already giving. Another firm picks up the cost of your MBA tuition — just in case you want to make a career change. If you stop and think about it, you can’t help but conclude that many of these services are designed less for you and more for helping you put in more hours at The Firm. For example, a Silicon Valley firm provides free laundry pick up and delivery. The firm Fish & Neave puts down “occasional keg party” as one of the benefits it makes available. Again, this is something that they bring to you so you don’t have to spend time looking for it. Several firms have cafeteria plans or even free breakfasts and late night dinners. If you combine the free meals with the free gym and the free laundry pickup and delivery, there’s really no need to go ever go home. You can eat, shower and change clothes all thanks to The Firm. Another firm lists a laptop computer as something special about the place. It’s hard to imagine some third-year law student proclaiming that he’s choosing Winston & Strawn because they promised to provide a piece of equipment that will enable him or her to work at home on the weekends. There are other things on the list that also fail to excite. These include free parking, unmatched 401(k) programs, mentoring programs and in-house training seminars. These firms are, no doubt, losing tons of qualified lawyers to firms that offer keg parties. Only a few law firms list flexible work schedules and sabbaticals among their benefits. It seems that a bit more free time is one of the hardest benefits to provide but, to the overworked attorney, it might be the most appreciated. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist distributed by the American Lawyer News Service and author of“Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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