In a June article titled Why $180k Is The Wrong Way To Motivate Associates And Attract Top Talent, Jeena Cho discusses why compensation alone is the wrong way for large law firms to attract and retain talent. Jeena believes that millennials are looking for other things besides money, including satisfaction surrounding the work that they do, and wellness programs to help them manage the stress that's associated with the job. I believe that not only is this inaccurate, but that this line of thinking has to be put to bed, once and for all.
If your worldview is that the work you do should have a meaningful purpose to you, or to society as a whole, you have more than likely ruled out working for a large law firm in the first place. One of the main problems we face when we describe what an entire industry "should do" is that we put ourselves in the drivers seat when we tell them what to do. But they are not "us." For instance, I don't think salary is everything when it comes to life. That's probably why I don't work at a large law firm. It's why I make less than I would if I didn't stop networking every night. But that doesn't mean that high salaries don't work to attract and retain talent. In fact, we know they do. How? Because there are dozens, if not hundreds of law students applying for each open associate position at a large law firm. I have yet to read an article insinuating that Cravath is having a tough time filling seats.
You could argue that the student/associate doesn't know what they're in for, but that's a specious argument at best. Summer associates sometimes engage in talking to one another. It's nice. They tell each other how absolutely miserable the job is (many also love the job, by the way). They're not naive.. They're not saving the manatees. They're aware of that. They've come to terms with that. Prostitutes typically don't complain that their client didn't vacuum the room and fix the flat screen after he/she left. It's a transaction. I give you $200,000 when you know less than nothing about law. You bill out 2000+ hours a year. If you stick around long enough, you will earn much more than $200,000 and you can bill even more for the firm.
The other issue with telling an entire industry what they "should" do, even though there's no indication they need to it, is that your cognitive bias kicks in. Google is doing something with wellness. So is another tech company. Frankly, everyone is doing something with wellness now, and using "data" to show...something good. I don't know what, but it's good. Because you think mindfulness is beneficial, and you've seen that companies that incorporate mindfulness has somehow "improved", that doesn't mean that works everywhere, but you probably think it should.
At some point, it's imperative we realize that indentured servitude is a thing of the past. 100% of millennials surveyed confirmed that they have free will and can chose not to accept offers, or leave law firms anytime they want. If there comes a day where a newly minted grad of a top law school doesn't care about a $200,000 salary, and cares more about wellness, then the market will respond. The market has not. It likely never will. Setting up meditation times while asking your associates to bill 2000 hours or more a year isn't exactly changing your corporate culture. It's forcing your Uber driver to drive to California from New York, on no sleep, but making sure he plays a white noise machine on the way. It's paying lip service so that the associate can get back to work and bill at $500/hr to make the Firm money, so the partners can take home millions. This isn't difficult. The system isn't broken. It works quite fine.