Chicago Magazine quotes MHR on “Big Law”

"A year before Helman looked back on his career, Mary Hutchings Reed, a former partner now of counsel at the similarly elite Winston & Strawn, also looked back on a career that started 20 years after Helman's, and came to similar conclusions: Harder still for a lawyer billing by the hour to suggest that she do only the most important things, or the most cost-effective things. So now we're more efficient, but we do more and bill more, and balance less. We've become adept at the metrics for measuring our productivity, but we frequently mistake our billings for our value and self-worth. We don't know how to quantify professional values, such as thoughtful analysis, creativity, learnedness, and commitment. Are we, as a profession, "better" lawyers now than then? I don't know. I do sense that we spend too much time lawyering, at the expense of our personal lives. Large-firm practice is today technologically more efficient, facially more diverse, institutionally more conscious of women and minorities, formally supportive of pro bono, and structurally more suited to alternative work arrangements. However, largely because of technology, today's firms are also more time-consuming, more demanding, more money-conscious, less intellectual, and less human. It's an evolution paralleled by that of investment banking, which Mary Ho found in her excellent book Liquidated. What was once a stable entry into the respectable upper-middle-class—"a profession, not a lifestyle," as Reed describes it—evolved very quickly into a hypercompetitive world of brutal hours that made people very wealthy, but destabilized employees and eventually the firms that employed them. What's left looks a lot like the economy as a whole: layoffs, contract workers, and an industry in search of the stability it once had." Read the whole article: