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Lawyer Defections

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In December 1996, The Washington Post published a story on lawyer defections from a Washington, D.C. law firm. Arnold & Porter was rated as Washington's most miserable law firm in 1994. The work was boring, the hours grueling and the partners callous, according to a survey of the firm's associates by the American Lawyer magazine, The firm's leaders launched a campaign to make the associates happy. Salaries were raised partners were encouraged to communicate with their underlings, and a subsidized day care center was built in the firm's new downtown office. The results were less than dramatic: a follow up survey revealed a slight improvement. After placing dead last in 1994, the firm wound up next to last in 1996. The article went on the say that for years, corporate law offices have been known by many in the profession as sweatshops where young lawyers toil in dreary obscurity, working under Dickensian bosses whose foremost concern is billing as many hours as humanly possible. The story also mentioned that Arnold & Porter hired a consulting firm that charged $3,000 a day to figure out what was making associates unhappy.

As an update, a June 24, 1998 WSJ article on law firm recruiting reported the results of a study by the National Association for Law Placement in Washington, D.C. It's study of associates hired between 1988 and 1996 found that job dissatisfaction was so high that one in 11 left their firms within the first year and 43% left within three years.

Use Herzberg's Two-factor theory to fully explain why the associates may be unhappy and leaving Arnold & Porter.

Based on the Herzbergs theory, Job dissatisfaction is the down fall of any organization. If the jobs and the way they are done is wrong or not done correctly and to the fullest extent, one cannot expect great success. The problem with Arnold & Porter is:

1. They are ripping people off by charging unbelievable amounts of money.

2. They are selfish.

3. They don't care about people or their employees. The corrective measures they took were wrong. Subsidizing day care wouldn't change the public image. Doing the right thing would change the way they look to the public.

Responses will vary, but the analysis should center on Herzberg's two factors: hygiene and motivating factors with an explanation of how each applies to this case. A good response might look like the following:

In developing his theory of motivation, Herzberg asked employees what gave them job satisfaction. He noticed that he got different responses from what was satisfying, and what was not satisfying. Therefore, he hypothesized that the opposite of satisfaction is not dissatisfaction, but the absence of satisfaction (neutral).

His two factors are:

a) Employee motivation (e.g., achievement, recognition, responsibility) those things that create job satisfaction; and

b) Hygiene factors (e.g., salaries, company policies, salary, supervision) that when adequate, placate employees; when adequate do not produce dissatisfaction.

The employees are leaving the firm because the motivators that the firm's associates value include achievement, recognition, and responsibility. However, what the firm chose to increase were hygiene factors (e.g., salaries, day care). These factors were probably adequate but, according to Herzberg, results in placated employees who are not dissatisfied, and does not produce satisfied (motivated) employees. The firm increased hygiene factors instead of the motivational factors needed to move their employees from expressing dissatisfaction, including neglect and exit. The environment did not seem to encourage loyalty or voicing dissatisfaction.

In the May 18, 1998 issue of Business Week, the story line read Nice Guys Finish With MBAs. The following is an excerpt from that piece:

" . . . nearly half of this year's top B-school graduates turned down their highest-paying job offer, preferring to work for companies that offered room for personal growth or had a more appealing corporate culture."

  • In your response define organizational culture and discuss which OCI styles most likely appeal to these graduates.
  • How can a culture be a liability to an organization?

Culture is one of (if not) the most important ingredients in a successful organization. The more culturally oriented, the more successful the organization will be. Having a healthy corporate culture is the best tool to motivate and, reward teamwork. It is also good in terms of group effectiveness. All of which will help the organization grow and develop as a whole. For example affiliate and humanistic cultures are the most important. For the organization to truly succeed a culture can be a liability to succeed. Without culture, its virtually impossible to succeed.

Define organizational culture: the core beliefs and values; the way we do things around here; the glue that holds the organization together.

The OCI style that is likely to appeal to MBA grads is the Constructive achievement, self-actualization, humanistic-encouraging, and affiliation. MBA grads are professionals with strong growth needs. Research demonstrates that professionals get their greatest job satisfaction from the work itself, that they need autonomy, and want responsibility.

Companies with constructive styles will be ones that:

  • Encourage achievement of organizational & personal ethic (achievement style)
  • Encourage supporting colleagues (affiliate) Support family/work balance (self-actualization) A culture can be a liability if its style does not fit with that of many of its employees. It can also be a liability because a company can have a difficult time retaining or motivating employees if there isn't a good organizational culture/individual style fit.

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Research papers on lawyer defection discusses law firm companies that lack employee motivation and what other companies have done to achieve a healthy corporate culture.

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