Work-Life Balance

'New Law' offers alternatives to lawyers fed up with long hours of BigLaw, report says

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Entrepreneurial legal ventures known as “New Law” offer novel business models and better work-life balance than BigLaw, according to a new report that lists more than 50 of them.

These New Law ventures are getting work that used to go to large law firms and are hiring BigLaw refugees, according to a Harvard Business Review article by University of California at Hastings law professor Joan Williams. Williams is director of the law school’s Center for WorkLife Law, which published the report (PDF).

The New Law ventures aren’t “small potatoes,” Williams says. They include legal placement and outsourcing firm Axiom, which has half of the Fortune 100 as clients, and Counsel on Call, which has more than 900 lawyers and a serves a third of the Fortune 100.

The report identifies five types of New Law models: Secondment firms that place lawyers at a client’s site on a temporary or part-time basis; companies that combine law and business advice; “accordion companies” that provide lawyers to law firms that need to beef up staffing for the short term; virtual law firms and companies that allow lawyers to work from home; and innovative law firms and companies that change the law firm model with alternative fees or other innovations.

One of the most common reasons BigLaw refugees give for founding New Law ventures is the desire for work-life balance, Williams writes in the Harvard Business Review article.

“Recent research suggests that what Big Law offers—one-off individual accommodation policies—are not effective,” Williams says. “Typically, the people who use them suffer the worst of both worlds—they’re stigmatized, but find themselves working full time for part-time pay. What New Law offers is what leading researchers now agree is a more promising formula: they hard-bake work-life balance into the business model.”

Some New Law firms allow lawyers to do part-time work from home; others require a full-time schedule of 40 to 50 hours a week, but the work can be done at home and the hours worked are flexible.

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