To be sure, not everyone has received Furlong's message that the debate is, at the very least, back-burnered in the current recession. As noted here and elsewhere in the past few weeks, Gen Y-ers and Boomers, in the personae of Adrian Dayton and Scott Greenfield, have been engaging in an online slam-fest over why partners don't get Gen Y, how Gen Y is full of "slackoisie," the evils of old-school requirements like face time, and the partners' prerogative to use associates as profit centers.
In that light, Furlong may have the right idea about the work-life balance debate; his post goes on to argue that firms, profit mills that they are, were never responsible for ensuring happiness or balance for associates; that responsibility falls squarely on the individual lawyer, who must decide for herself whether the time tradeoffs are worth the money/prestige/whatever.
So the term "work-life balance" may be dying, at least insofar as it was meant to invoke a direct challenge to law firms to act differently towards their associates. But as Furlong notes, whatever name you choose to use, a significant problem remains: law school is really expensive. With all their school debt, what else can new lawyers do but sign up to be oxen? That's a problem that is unlikely to go away anytime soon, recession or no. The best we can hope for, for now, is that the legal economy turns around, and we can at least get back to being greedy oxen.