The media has been buzzing about alternative legal practice models, and we are excited to report that Montage Legal Group has been at the center of the conversation. Starting with the founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings School of Law, Joan Williams, to The Huffington Post and The Atlantic, the legal community and their clients are exploring “new” practice models as a means to retain top talent, reduce costs, and increase client service. Founded in 2009, Montage Legal Group is not exactly “new,” so we have plenty of experience to contribute to the conversation, and have been credited with coining terminology since we started out. In 2011, the ABA Journal featured Montage and stated that “Laurie Rowen and Erin Giglia would like to add a new work status to the law dictionary: freelance.” Since then, Montage’s lawyers have been known as freelance lawyers, contract lawyers, on-demand lawyers and project lawyers.
Over the past few months, authors for the Atlantic and Huffington Post have added a new term to describe our business model – “law firm accordion company.” Law firm accordion companies give “firms the ability to ‘accordion up’ when there is a surge of work, and fold back down when the work is completed.” We love this new term, and have been honored to provide interviews and serve as a resource to researchers like Joan and to the media to explain how our model can benefit the legal community. We’ve summarized the recent press here. Check it out!
The article’s Executive Summary begins with a familiar statement: “For decades, lawyers have been complaining that they hate working at law firms, and clients have expressed increasing frustration with high legal fees. But complaining is as far as either group went, until recently.”
The UC Hastings College of the Law Work-Life Balance Center published a comprehensive review of a wide variety of new businesses and organizations that attempt to remedy law firm and client frustrations with the traditional law firm model. The 118 page review discusses five distinct models: (1) Secondment Firms; (2) Law and Business Advice Companies; (3) Law Firm Accordion Companies; (4) Virtual Law Firms and Companies; and (5) Innovative Law Firms and Companies.
Montage Legal Group is the first company discussed as a “Law Firm Accordion Company.” According to the article, law firm accordion companies give “firms the ability to ‘accordion up’ when there is a surge of work, and fold back down when the work is completed”. Pages 38-40 discuss Montage Legal Group in detail, and explain why Montage benefits both freelance lawyers and the law firms they serve. Montage helps not only the freelance attorneys who work with them achieve work-life balance, but also contributes to better work-life balance for law firm lawyers by allowing law firms to outsource work during busy times.
The legal marketplace is changing rapidly. Montage Legal Group is happy to have a seat at the table as one of the time-tested New Model alternatives (a veteran at 6 years old). We are excited to see what is in store for the future. To read the full report, click here.
Joan Williams, founding Director of the Center for WorkLife Law, published an article in the Huffington Post titled “Don’t Leave When You Leave,” piggybacking on her comprehensive study of “Disruptive Legal Practice Models.” The article discusses the fact that younger professional women, Generations X and Y and Millenials, are more likely than their elders to plan a career break when starting and expanding their families. She states, “For them, Sheryl Sandberg’s famous advice — Don’t Leave Before You Leave — can now be supplemented with new advice: Don’t Leave When You Leave.”
“Don’t Leave When You Leave” highlights business – including Montage Legal Group – that enable lawyers taking a career pause to keep their skills sharp by doing hourly freelance/contract work. These “law firm accordion companies” offer law firms “curated networks of lawyers, available to work on a part time and/or temporary basis, thereby allowing firms to accordion up to meet unexpected work demands without hiring new employees.”
The article notes that Montage includes lawyers from Harvard, Georgetown, and Columbia, and further states:
Erin Clary Giglia, who co-founded Montage Legal Group, gave some examples of the kind of work her lawyers do. The typical engagement, she said, might be “five to twenty hours a week for the next three weeks.” Her attorneys might draft pleadings, or second chair a trial, or come in a train associates to build up a practice area in a small firm, or help with a discrete project on a tight turnaround. When a small firm bids for a large piece of business, they may use Montage Legal as part of their pitch.
Thank you, Joan, for taking the time to research these issues with your comprehensive study. Technology and economic realities have played a significant role in the changing legal marketplace, and Montage Legal Group is happy to be a part of the solution. To read the full article, click here.
Teddy Snyder is a well-known expert on rainmaking for women in in the legal field. She has been an attorney since 1977, and frequently speaks and writes on the business of law. In her recent article, Five Sources of Professional Help in a Pinch, Teddy explains where professionals can get help when they feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. In addition to listing Craigslist, TaskRabbit and Temp Agencies, Snyder discusses what she calls “project lawyers” who can help law firms with research and writing, among other projects. Snyder lists Montage Legal Group as an example of a project lawyer company, and states:
Stay-at-home moms and military spouses may represent the top tier of the freelance lawyer industry. Typically, these are high-caliber attorneys, usually with big firm experience. They have a limited number of hours available on a weekly basis, but they are not looking for permanent part-time employment….Their typical client is a boutique firm that may have broken off from a BigLaw firm.
Teddy Snyder and Montage co-founder Erin Giglia served on a Ms. JD panel back in 2011, and Teddy was an incredible resource to the attorneys attending. It has been fantastic reading her valuable articles on Attorney at Work. Be sure to read more articles by Teddy Snyder at Attorney at Work.
Leigh McMullan Abramson, who reports on the business of law and attorneys for The Atlantic, discusses the often harsh realities of law firm practice:
A career at a major law firm usually means long hours, missed family vacations, and significant burnout—so much so that the troubles of unhappy attorneys in “Big Law” have spawned an industry dedicated to helping them quit their jobs. This continuous work cycle was recently described by the Columbia law professor Timothy Wu in The New Yorker as a “massive, socially unnecessary arms race, wherein lawyers subject each other to torturous amounts of labor just because they can.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
While many law firms allow part-time schedules, reduced schedules are rarely a solution (believe us on this one – just talk to anyone who has tried it). Leigh discusses Joan Williams’ Disruptive Innovation article, which identifies the most common reasons part-time does not work – the “flexibility stigma,” that the part-time attorney is less committed or competent, and the “schedule creep,” where part-time slowly morphs back into full-time without a corresponding salary adjustment. Instead of settling for part-time schedules, would-be part-time attorneys now have a real alternative among the disruptive innovation “New Law” practice models, including Montage Legal Group.
Leigh discusses the “accordion company” model, a new term that describes Montage Legal Group:
Meanwhile, “accordion companies” assemble networks of attorneys available to help small or mid-size firms or businesses expand to meet temporary surges in workflow, such as the flurry of activity right before a trial.
Of course, there are pros and cons to every type of legal practice. “But lawyers must take on uncertainty by agreeing to be paid only for the hours they end up working, rather than a guaranteed salary. ‘It’s not for everyone,’ says Erin Clary Giglia, co-founder of Montage Legal, of the inconsistent, unpredictable workflow offered by many New Model firms.” While freelance practice may be inconsistent at times, it definitely works for some attorneys who are happy to trade salary and predictability for flexibility and choice.
Read the full story here.
Leigh McMullan Abramson discusses New Model law companies from another angle in her article, Parents in Law: Is it Possible to Be Both an Attorney and a Committed Mom or Dad?, the parents themselves. The statistics don’t lie – while women make up nearly half of law firm associates, they account for only 20% of the partnership, and approximately 2/3 leave their firms within 5 years, even though only a small percentage intended to become stay-at-home mothers.
There are many thousands of Gen X, Gen Y, and Millennials who never wanted to be off the career track, but were previously faced with an all-or-nothing decision. They are forging alternative career paths with New Law models, including “Law Firm Accordion Companies” like Montage Legal Group. With the new models, attorneys are able to keep their foot in the door, can continue to practice law, and can create the kind of career path that works for their lives and families. To read the full story, click here.