Technically, firms aren’t obligated to pay attorneys to purchase the tools of their trade. Law firms weren’t covering dry cleaning all those years when a suit was de rigueur. But keeping a clean suit isn’t the same as keeping plugged into the law firm matrix. Tech stipends guaranteed that associates would stay available around the clock and purchased top-of-the-line tools. It’s a relatively cheap perk that law firms can offer that has the added benefit of helping the firm. That’s why so many top firms do it.
But once a firm offers a stipend, it’s functionally increased the associate’s salary by taking a key expense off the lawyer’s plate. So when it tries to cheap out, it’s a real slap in the face. Days after learning that Womble was cheaping out on associates, Venable is following suit.
This is pure bullshit. “voice and data plans have become even more competitive”? Only in finding new fees to add. In 2010, Verizon’s unlimited data plan was $29.99/month. By 2018, Verizon’s unlimited data plan started at $75/month. Today the company boasts multiple “unlimited” plans banking on consumers too stupid to understand the definition of the word “unlimited.” The closest thing to an actual unlimited plan from Verizon right now is going for $70-$90/month. If anything, costs are going to keep going up as carriers package the same service under new brand names to justify charging more and more.
The loss of the stipend is bad, but the disingenuousness is so much worse. Trying to pawn this off by straight up lying about the price of data shows a profound disrespect for the firm’s workforce. The reality is, the firm is betting that associates will probably buy state of the art phones and the biggest data plans anyway. Smartphone culture is ubiquitous and the population of lawyers willing to buy a flip phone just to get out of responding to 2 a.m. emails is almost non-existent, making this an easy place to cut expenses. And they’re probably right about that.
But it’s still a pay cut and it’s still a raw deal for folks who’ve relied on that money for the last few years.
Earlier: Wither The Law Firm Technology Subsidy?
Biglaw Firm Blows Competition Out Of The Water With Tech Spending Stipend For Associates
Actually, THIS Tech Stipend Blows The Competition Out Of The Water
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.
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