In recent years, the practice of law at the nation’s largest firms has become much more of a business and much less of a profession. Firms have been squeezing more billable hours out of their associates, abandoning less lucrative practice areas and showing the door to partners who don’t bring in enough business — measures that would have been unheard of in the profession’s more genteel days.You can make up all kinds of theories about why some ridiculous behavior is actually for the good. I'll have to think about this one some more. It may seem hard to care if law firms compete with each other self-destructively, but try.
So this bizarre competition among prestige-hungry law firms to collect the most young legal rock stars actually represents a healthy check, however modest, on this profit-maximizing behavior. By harnessing irrational law firm egotism to serve the rest of the profession, enormous clerkship bonuses achieve an impressive, increasingly difficult feat: getting top law firms to contribute to something other than their own bottom line.
June 18, 2007
David Lat has an op-ed in today's NYT, about the giant bonuses law firms are giving to Supreme Court clerks: $250,000, on top of a salary of nearly $200,000.