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Unionize Lawyers?

I recently read an article written by Jordan Furlong-- a gentleman who is very thoughtful, and has a keen eye for matters that impact the legal profession-- both present, and in the near future. One of the thoughts offered caught my eye, and got me thinking about lawyer wellbeing: What if lawyers (particularly, non-equity lawyers) were encouraged to unionize?

A radical notion? Absolutely. An appropriate notion? I believe so. A likely notion? Realistically, not so much. But the idea serves to highlight an important reality-- the wellbeing of non-equity lawyers is not a concern that is widely shared among equity lawyers (the ones who control policy and the purse strings). That's a sad fact, but in most law firms, it's true.

It's a classic case of what happens (or, in the case of lawyer wellbeing, does not happen) "when worlds collide". The "worlds", of course, are the clash between the self-interests of equity lawyers and the clearly delineated needs of non-equity lawyers. One could even take that assertion one step further, and argue that the self-interests of most equity lawyers are a threat to the legal profession, more widely.

Sure, concern about lawyer wellbeing (of which mindfulness and meditation are important components) has been an increasing topic of conversation, but much of that conversation is little more than virtue signaling and the possibility of meaningful seems to be remote. It's time for leadership to think about what Mr. Furlong refers to as "moon-shot" solutions.

The article in question makes the point that, "If you take away the fear of sudden arbitrary unemployment from [non-equity] lawyers, you can reduce their stress considerably. And as more previously unionized lawyers enter partnership each year, the partnership becomes more aware of and sympathetic to the plight of its workers".

I wasn't a labor attorney when I was practicing, and I'm certainly not an experienced union organizer, but it strikes me that the critical concern of lawyer wellbeing could be well-served by a bottom-up approach, as opposed to the top-down approach that has been promoted by so many (including myself) to date!


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