For the second time in just a month, the media has anointed AltLaw as the savior for lawyers – particularly women – who want to parent and practice.
Back in August, the Harvard Business Journal profiled various “new law” models that gaining traction as alternatives to the big law partnership track. And just today, The Atlantic touts many of the “new business models” that assign freelance lawyers to temporary gigs – companies like Montage Legal or Bliss Lawyers – as a middle ground for women who want to raise families but don’t want to leave the law either.
Call me skeptical. It’s not that I don’t support new law ventures like Bliss or Montage. To the contrary, I’m a huge fan because these models make legal services more competitive and affordable, while offering career options that have always been available (see, for example, Lisa Solomon, an independent freelance lawyer who’s been in business for two decades), but were not necessarily as accessible. But viewing these models from the perspective of the women providing the services, I’m not convinced that they offer a viable long-term career path for women who want to parent and practice, as these recent news stories suggest.
To begin, how many women can these new law models actually place? The Atlantic piece says that Bliss Lawyers draws on a network of 10,000 women for secondments to law firms and corporations. Yet, even if Bliss is dispatching women on massive document review assignments (which doesn’t appear to be the case), it can’t possibly be keeping more than a small fraction of its network members busy. Who wants to be in their 50’s, hanging out by the phone waiting for an assignment to come in? [click to continue…]