"This path breaking research sends a message to America's law firms that is loud and clear: the
best law students want to work at the firms where they have a fair chance at promotion, and
where it is possible to work hard and enjoy a family life. It's about time students collected this
kind of basic information about law firms and began to vote with their feet."
-Michele Landis Dauber, Ph.D., Professor of Law and (by courtesy) Sociology, Stanford Law School
It was with this quote in mind that I began my work with the New Media Group. I started this class interested in issues of diversity and minority promotion and retention in law firms as well as work-life balance in the firms and become interested in the New Media project because of the focus it placed on grassroots advocacy and the opportunity it gave to help enhance BBLP's current structure and popularity. The project was two-fold: 1) to increase knowledge of BBLP through innovative technology; specifically Google's AdWords advertising program, and 2) to encourage law school Offices of Career Services to incorporate.
The purpose of the first portion of our project was easy enough-we used a Google AdWords Grant to create ads that would capture the attention of people searching Google for any one of the numerous keywords we matched. As a result, when people searched "Blank Rome," for example, they'd find one of our Blank Rome Ads on the right side of their screen beside the non-paid Google search findings and if they clicked on the ad, would be directed to the BBLP website, increasing traffic to the site and raising awareness of BBLP.
The second portion of the New Media project, however, most caught my eye. Through our weekly discussion sections with Davida and after talking with a number of Stanford Law students, we found out about a number of common problems with Offices of Career Services at law schools around the nation. Indeed the crux of the dilemma and the basis of the second half of our project is that Career services offices often don't have the time, incentives, or resources to counsel students about the differences between firms and help them be selective in their decisions. We furthermore learned that offices focused on getting the bottom percent of students jobs and have an incentive to get students any job because many law-school rankings are based upon employment numbers for students 1 year out of law school. As a result, OCS is generally not concerned with whether students are happy or if students leave their job after the first year.
Many offices also count on students to do independent research on the things that they value about firms, but the present and most prevalent options for research, like NALP, are difficult to navigate and don't break down the information in a way that is conducive to the type of issues that law students are concerned with.
In the end our project, both the OCS side and the AdWords side, simply aimed to promote BBLP. But why? Why is BBLP important? Why is it relevant? And moreover, why is it revolutionary?
The importance of BBLP data
In order to understand our project's goal-to encourage the use of BBLP's data by OCS advising and counseling-it's necessary to understand exactly why we, the founders of BBLP, and the numerous endorses of the organization, find BBLP to be a necessary tool for the American law student.
According to BBLP's self-reported methodology, "the process is simple! Cut, paste, and Rank. BBLP uses NALP data and for every law firm office employing 100 or more attorneys in the six major legal markets (New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Southern California, Northern California, and Boston) as well as five subsidiary markets (Atlanta, Miami, Pacific Northwest, Philadelphia, and Texas). This data was simply collected and then from "best to worst," which usually means firms with the most minority and LGBT partners and associates to firms with the least LGBT minority partners and associates, and firms with the most work-life balance to firms with the least work-life balance. The concept that has made BBLP most famous, however, are the letter grades assigned to each firm based on their statistics and how they fair compared with their peers.
But are students really concerned with work-life balance and diversity at their firms?
Phoebe Taubman, Project Attorney and Equal Justice Works Fellow at A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center, found that students indeed do! She surveyed 351 students at the NYU School of Law and found that worries about balancing work and family weigh far more heavily on the minds of top law students than other career concerns including compensation and job prestige (Taubman). Moreover, she found that 72 percent of male and 76 percent of female students said they were very or extremely worried about being able to balance work and family, which is more than twice the number of law students who were worried about earning top pay, doing high profile cases or working for a prestigious firm. 7 out of 10 survey respondents expected to make career sacrifices in order to have a satisfying personal life and 8 out of 10 indicated a willingness to trade money for time, that is, accept reduced earnings in return for flexibility and reduced hours (Taubman).
Even NALP agrees: according to their research, by the time associates are in their fifth year of practice, nearly 80% have left large law firms (Jones) Indeed, large firms entice graduates with lavish starting salaries, as much as $160,000 plus bonuses, but undercutting the financial incentive offered by the firms, is their worsening reputation for associate dissatisfaction (Jones).
From the Founder of the National Women's Law Center to the CEO and Chairman of Orrick (Appendix B), praise for BBLP is abound and the necessity for an avenue where law students can explore important factors such as diversity and work-life balance in their firm selection decisions is obvious.
Building a Better Legal Profession (BBLP) is an organization based at Stanford Law School. BBLP is a national grassroots movement that seeks market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms. For more information, visit BBLP's Web site at www.betterlegalprofession.org. HTML:
Building a Better Legal Profession (BBLP) is an organization based at Stanford Law School. BBLP is a national grassroots movement that seeks market-based workplace reforms in large private law firms. For more information, visit BBLP's Web site at www.betterlegalprofession.org.
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