Posted: 02 December 2014 Updated: 16 December 2017
Prof. David Wilkins on Corporations and Law Firms
Professor Wilkins mentioned that corporations don’t want to pay for the training of first year associates. In other words, they insist on only working with skilled and knowledgeable associates. He speculated about some possible solutions. I believe I have one solution: subject lawyers to overtime laws.
Concentration of knowledge leads to long hours for lawyers.
Corporations insist on working with knowledgeable and skilled lawyers
The majority of the knowledge in a law firm is concentrated in the partners and senior associates.
Therefore, partners and senior associates must work long hours to meet the demands of the corporations.
Overtime exemptions mean that employment laws do not affect the concentration of knowledge
Partners and senior associates must work long hours to meet the demands of the corporations. (see 1.c)
Overtime laws do not apply to lawyers and most other knowledge workers
Therefore, corporations pay the same amount for every hour a lawyer works–whether it is the first hour that week, the forty-first, or the eighty-first
If overtime laws applied to lawyers, then corporations would have a new economic incentive to limit the overtime hours of lawyers
Currently, corporations pay the same amount for each hour of work performed by a lawyer (see 2.c)
If lawyers were subject to overtime laws, then they would have to be paid more for work over 40 hours per week
Corporations would have an incentive to reduce the amount of work given to a particular lawyer, if the lawyer is currently working more than 40 hours per week
Overtime laws would encourage corporations to seek legal work from lawyers other than those currently doing their legal work
Corporations would have an incentive to reduce the amount of work given to a particular lawyer, if the lawyer is currently working more than 40 hours per week (see 3.c)
Corporations would still need the same amount of legal work to be performed
Therefore, corporations would have an economic incentive to have the overtime work currently performed by partners and senior associates performed by other associates
Overtime laws would lead corporations to insist that more lawyers share in the current knowledge
Corporations insist on working with knowledgeable and skilled lawyers (see 1.a)
With overtime laws, corporations would have an economic incentive to seek legal work from more lawyers (see 3.c)
Therefore, corporations would have an economic incentive to make sure that more lawyers are knowledgeable and skilled
Corporations insist that they do not want to work with first year associates or other unknowledgeable lawyers. Overtime exemptions perpetuate knowledge concentration and inadvertently contribute to the problem. The solution may be surprisingly simple: change the overtime laws so that knowledge is less concentrated and corporations will want to work with the newly-knowledgeable lawyers.