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Will Outsourcing Improve Associate Retention? A Couple Experts See Benefits

Posted Aug 23, 2010 8:55 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Outsourcing by BigLaw could limit the number of jobs for new law grads, but those associates lucky enough to be hired could benefit, according to experts making the point in two separate articles today.

Steven Harper, a recently retired partner at Kirkland & Ellis, notes the “ironic turn of events” in an article published by the Am Law Daily. “For the fortunate few who get jobs, their work could get better as outsourced labor performs some of the menial tasks that now account for most young associates' billable hours,” he writes.

“Instead of the mind-numbing tasks that are the bane of so many young lawyers' lives, associates will find themselves doing work that more closely resembles what they thought being a lawyer meant when they first decided to attend law school,” he writes. “If that were to happen—and reality begins to resemble expectations—lawyers as a group could become more satisfied with their jobs. The unthinkable might even happen: a slow reversal in the tide of recent surveys that consistently rank attorneys near the bottom of all occupations in career fulfillment.

“Such a scenario would be an ironic turn of events. The extraordinary wealth that clients now confer on those running today's highly leveraged big firms could be providing the impetus to upend the profession and force the emergence of a new business model in which leverage no longer mattered.”

Georgetown University’s new law dean, William Michael Treanor, makes a similar point in an interview with the Washington Post publication Capital Business. As law firms turn to outsourcing and contract employment, “associates will be doing more work that is truly lawyerly work,” he said.

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