Lawyers who are considering joining a Boston-based law firm are faced with a choice: Do they want to join an organization that’s known for its reputation for litigiousness or an organization where they will likely be expected to abide by the firm’s code of ethics?
If you want to work for a firm that doesn’t abide by those guidelines, you’re in the wrong place.
According to the Massachusetts Bar Association’s latest survey, just 5 percent of lawyers surveyed indicated they were willing to work with a firm whose code of conduct is in conflict with the firm itself.
That’s a far cry from the 20 percent of those surveyed who said they would be willing to join a firm with that code of behavior.
And that’s in a state where a majority of attorneys work for law firms, not corporations.
In the Boston area, for example, only 10 percent of attorneys working for law offices in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville said they were in a position to be fired or otherwise discriminated against if they chose to join the Boston-area firm.
The survey also found that a large majority of lawyers who responded said they’d be willing “to take on additional duties” in the firm.
In other words, lawyers who are willing to put in the extra work will be more likely to be hired in the future.
But that may be a short-term advantage, according to Boston attorney Matt Miller, who is a partner at the law firm Miller Lewis in Somerville.
“There’s a sense of, ‘Oh, if I can’t make the firm happy, why would I work there?'”
“That’s a false assumption.”
Miller has been practicing law in Boston for more than 20 years.
He said he believes that it’s important to understand that “part of your job is to do the right thing and to follow your conscience.”
He explained that some lawyers are hesitant to work in a firm where they may feel they are not representing clients properly because of the work environment they find at the firm, including “a sense of uncertainty” about how they will be treated in the workplace.
“Part of the reason that’s so hard to change is that lawyers feel like they’re working against their own best interest,” Miller said, noting that there’s a lot of turnover in the industry.
“It’s hard to recruit people that are going to be a good fit.”
But Miller said that, ultimately, he believes the hiring process should be about hiring lawyers who “believe in the profession and want to do it for the right reasons.”
“The way to change that is to encourage people to come to the office and work with their colleagues who want to practice law,” he said.
Miller’s firm is not alone in its desire to change the culture of the Boston firm.
According in the survey, about 25 percent of law firms surveyed in Massachusetts said they are considering downsizing, which could mean fewer lawyers working there.
Miller said he thinks the survey is “pretty accurate” in showing that, in general, the Boston office is still the “best place to work” for lawyers who don’t want to be there.
“The problem is that a lot more people are moving in, but they don’t really know what to expect,” Miller added.
“You know, they’re like, ‘Well, I’m coming here for my first day of practice,’ and then they leave.”
But some lawyers have a better shot at landing a new job in Boston if they’re willing to change their careers, Miller said by email.
“We have a strong tradition in the Boston legal world of being able to get people hired by a firm, and if you have an entrepreneurial spirit and are willing and able to take that leap, then we have the potential to make a difference,” he wrote.
“This is a good opportunity for you to be able to make the leap, to become a lawyer who is going to represent your clients fairly, without the baggage that can come with being a lawyer in a corporate law firm.”