A couple of years ago, talk about work-life balance was all the rage. It was the key, many thought, to retaining talented, sought-after lawyers.
Well, it may still be important for retaining lawyers, as our colleagues at Legal Week reported just days ago. But how much attention will the issue get now that so much of the economy has turned sour, and retaining high-paid associates is the least of many firms’ worries? Perusing recent blogs and news, we came across a lot of people abandoning the feisty can-do spirit of recent years.
That Legal Week story reported on a study that recently found that long hours and barriers to flex-time could cause a drain among the legal profession's young parents (sound familiar?). Then, this comment followed from one reader:
“But in a profession where there is only room for a small percentage of the talent actually to make it to the top, isn't the work/life balance issue one of the natural predators that helps to cull the number of potential partnership candidates? The work/life balance certainly does mean that some talented individuals are lost (e.g. moi) but looked at more broadly, is there presently a lack of talent at the senior associate level? The answer is certainly ‘no’ at my firm.”
Or this, from New York Times columnist Lisa Belkin, who has for nine years waxed on about work and life, and who famously wrote in ‘03 about high-achieving women “opting out” of the workforce. (P.S.: She’s tracked some of those women down, and they’ve had mixed luck returning to work.)
“… the sorts of initiatives that make work more family friendly are also the newest, and it is likely that when cuts have to be made in companies, these kinds of programs will be the first to go. … Can someone who has been jobless by choice possibly compete in this market with someone who was laid off just weeks ago?”
Or this Wall Street Journal column [password required]:
“As past recessions have shown, downturns tend to quash such luxuries as cutting back to part-time work hours by choice, dropping out voluntarily for a while to stay home with the kids, or taking a sabbatical.”
Of course, that’s just one school of thought. A lot of firms, like this 330-person one in Ohio, have so far stuck with their work-life perks even as the economy has ridden a monthlong rollercoaster. Maybe they won't give up such inroads easily. What have you seen at your firms, readers? Any disappearing perks, or business as usual?
— Pam Smith