Technology has improved the ability of lawyers to provide quality legal advice to their clients. However, its impact on the actual lives of lawyers may not be so positive.
The New York State Bar Association has released a report on the future of the legal profession. The report details the impact of an increasingly globalized legal field. With the outsourcing of legal work to other countries and competition from non-legal service providers, law firms are in a bind. Clients can go anywhere these days, which has pushed lawyers to implement a "better-faster-cheaper" work model, according to the report.
A "better-faster-cheaper" work model, heavily influenced by new technology, also leads to "burn-out and the loss of human capital and expertise, placing additional economic burden on firms and taking its toll on individuals." With the influence of 24/7 E-mail, attorneys are moving from unhappy to unhappier.
Not addressing the increasing pressure to produce will lead to more depressed, dissatisfied, and addicted lawyers, the report states. It suggests that law firms emphasize and preserve "me time"-allow and respect vacations, and no phone calls or e-mails after a certain time at night. It even suggests that firms consider sabbaticals.
Small firms and solo practitioners have a more difficult time fitting in vacation given the nature of their practice. The report suggests that vacation time be set some time in advance so that clients can be informed early and will know who will handle problems when away. Furthermore, contingency plans for vacation or family emergencies should be set out in the retainer agreement or engagement letter.
In addition to time off, the report also suggests that employers enact "quality of life initiatives"-social events, childcare assistance, meals in the evening, and gym memberships. After all, a happy lawyer is a more efficient lawyer.