{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "What exactly does the “free market system” for distributing work to associates look like?", "post_id": "5f75f2eb48be91002fc84d63", "reply_count": 17, "vote_count": 1, "bowl_id": "5df70ed2f7169f002b172d3f", "bowl_name": "Big Law", "feed_type": "bowl" }

What exactly does the “free market system” for distributing work to associates look like?

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Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. The amount of work you get will be based on your relationships with more senior associates/of counsel/partners and how much they like you and your work.


Top performers get too much work, under performers get too little work, and both leave unhappy


Regardless of your firm’s assignment system, that’s pretty much what happens after a few years. No senior person works with people they don’t like (personally or their work product).


I just mean that an open market system is great if you’re popular AND good at your job. You’ll have people knocking on your door to give you work all the time. Like others pointed out in this thread it actually becomes so frequent that it’s a whole separate issue. Popular and good associates will be buried in work and end up burning out because you can only say no so many times before it looks bad. What I’m discussing is the “popular” aspect. I see it all the time with juniors and at my year level. You might have two associates who are equally responsive and diligent, but one gets asked to be on all the “good” deals and the other does not. You can chalk this up to personality types and friendliness, but when you look at the patterns and see white males always working with white males and white females always working with white females, the minorities get screwed (as do female associates because there are usually fewer female partners). It’s not a golden rule and there are plenty of exceptions, but it is common enough that you’ll notice the same types of people leave or burn out much faster at these firms.


Minorities get screwed.


Exactly like the free market system for distributing money.

Appreciate the responses. I’m a little bit surprised, because “free market” sounds to be more or less what we have at my firm, but I’ve never heard it referred to as such. Maybe that’s because my group has so few associates. What’s the alternative? Associates assigned to certain partners? One theme seems to be that in a typical FM system, you can choose who you work with. Does that mean it’s acceptable to turn down work if you’ve already got enough on your plate?

The alternative is to have a staffing coordinator (either a partner or a non-lawyer) who distributes all assignments. That means that if there’s a rockstar associate in high demand, the coordinator can tell partners that they have to choose someone else.

I really like the FM system. I think it puts a little control in the hands of the associates. You have to be somewhat strategic about your relationships, but if you hate working for a particular partner, you can say no if you have other work. I can only speak from my personal experience, but I also don’t think it fosters inequality, at least for juniors. I say this as the only female in our group and also first generation/working class background (so I’m not out golfing, but I don’t think my counterparts are either TBH). I also think it is good experience for learning BD skills.

What would you guess that it would look like?

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