We all enter law school with high aspirations. Dreaming of a career filled with meaning, money, and sympathetic clients. But how many of us truly achieve this vision? To what extent are lawyers today happy with their jobs and, more specifically, with the demands put on their free time by their jobs? Why are lawyers today some of the most statistically depressed professionals on the planet? At its core lawyering is supposed to be about helping people. Does providing this help have to involve lawyers sacrificing their own well-being? Isn’t there another way of providing legal services, one that is not a drain on the practitioner’s soul?
All these questions are more important now than ever before given the current instability of the legal profession caused by the many catalysts of change that are applying pressure on the profession to change its archaic norms. More than ever before lawyers and future lawyers are looking for new ways to avoid living a life of 70-hour work weeks that leave no time for themselves. This millennial generation is more cognizant than any before it of the importance of personal fulfillment. The pressure to change being applied to the legal profession is not only coming from the inside. Clients are becoming less deferential to the billable hour and more conscious of its weaknesses. Technology is evolving in ways that can facilitate new forms of lawyer-client interaction and more efficient means of conducting legal research. The outsourcing of legal research and document review, which in the past were duties of junior associates, is more common now than it has ever been before. Change is coming whether we like it or not. The only question is how the profession is going to respond to it.
One response to the inevitable wave of incoming change and the calls for a healthier and more balanced way to practice law is a business model called nomadic lawyering. This novel form of legal service is hugely appealing to the large population of lawyers who are unhappy with the unreasonable demands put on them by their employers. The few firms that operate under this business model offer the lawyers in their employ the ultimate job flexibility regarding both scheduling and location. As unbelievable as it sounds, the lawyers working for these firms actually choose when and where they want to work. Compared to the traditional business model in which lawyers are often obliged to work sixty to eighty hours every week, this liberating alternative seems almost too good to be true!
But it is true!
Companies like Axiom Law have revolutionized the circumstances in which legal services can be provided. An Axiom lawyer is free to accept, refuse, or request a file at any time and therefore can work as much, or as little as he or she pleases. They are also free to work remotely, on-site with clients, or at times in any of the Axiom offices. This serves the lawyer by granting them an unparalleled amount of freedom to travel while they work and it serves the firm by greatly reducing their overhead because they have no need to invest in the fancy offices commonly used by traditional big city law firms.
So, if companies like Axiom have made the switch from the old model and have had so much success in doing so, why haven’t more traditionally-oriented law firms followed suit? The answer lies in the interests of the guys in charge. Partners of large law firms have worked decades to reap the ample rewards offered during their brief tenure atop the pyramid and they have no incentive to give this up for the purpose of making way for innovation.
The solution to the hurdle created by this conflict of interest is that younger, newer lawyers have to branch out, take a leap of faith, and liberate themselves from the old system in order to improve not only the quality of the legal service they are able to provide, but also their overall quality of life.