{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "Forming a union. Will we see more big law associates form unions under the Biden administration? What are the pros of forming a union?", "post_id": "60382901a7b98600221514ff", "reply_count": 28, "vote_count": 8, "bowl_id": "5df70ed2f7169f002b172d3f", "bowl_name": "Big Law" }

Forming a union. Will we see more big law associates form unions under the Biden administration? What are the pros of forming a union?

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On a strictly descriptive/predictive level, I think it’s unlikely we’ll see any big law unions (at least at the associate level) because of professional considerations, high turnover, and high, lockstep compensation. Biden admin won’t be enough (and might not even be that labor friendly relative to, say, a Bernie admin). Personally, unionization seems like it could be a good idea, especially for non-partnership-track staff. Given record revenues and profits, labor (staff and associates) could likely extract better compensation, work-life balance, or benefits from partners if they worked together, especially industry-wide. Even less-extreme labor organizing strategies, like strengthening and unifying around associates committees and having those committees work together across firms, could lead to meaningful improvements for big law associates. Sadly, I don’t know if the will is there. But I hope it is.

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Fundamentally, others here are right that unionization in a single firm could seriously harm the firm. That’s why there needs to be industry-wide, cross-firm efforts in order for there to be true/lasting reform. And it’s important to have realistic goals—slightly reducing overall billable hour requirements (which have been creeping up over the years) or bumping up compensation or improving benefits like health insurance or 401k matching (which are frankly poor relative to many other white collar professions). The exact vehicle to achieve these ends is perhaps less important. It just needs to start with industry-wide coordination and willpower. A good first step is to start reaching out to peers both internally at your firm and across firms.

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Bad idea. I do labor relations, and this will just kill law firms. What are the primary reasons for unions? Increased wages? Better benefits? Law firm employees get great pay and great benefits, so that’s a no. Honestly this will kill profitability, if I’m a client I wouldn’t want my work going to a unionized law firm that has strict work schedules and possible overtime limitations, I’d go somewhere else. I’d find a firm where the associates can work on my matters without any arbitrary limitations. This is shortsighted

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Author I hear your points but that’s not all that goes into hiring. Benefits for employees typically run about 1/3 of the employees salary. So having 4 people instead of 3 does increase costs. It’s not based on hours worked. Not saying I disagree with the industry needing reform but sometimes people are too quick to criticize business practices without really knowing what it takes to run one successfully.

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I don’t understand why you would unionize as an associate.

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100% true. Good workers don’t have to worry about job security. And they get paid and promoted. People who want a Union are mediocre workers who want job security and pay they don’t earn and who want privileges based on seniority rather than good work. There was a time when unions did very important work on everything from workplace safety to pay based on scrip to the baseball reserve clause. Those days are long past us. I’m a D but am 100% aligned with those who want to eliminate public unions and significantly weaken private unions.

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OP, how are associates at big law firms underpaid? Start at a Cravath scale firm and you’re immediately in the 96th percentile of all is workers.

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So most biglaw partners don’t make 10 or 20 times what a first year associate makes, much less what a 6th year associate makes. Leaving that aside, if it’s not about the salary, what is it about? Asking sincerely.

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Plus union members have to pay union dues—so that’s where your salary will be going. The only thing people would get out of joining a union at a law firm is for cause termination protection

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