By Cynthia Morgan-Reed
For many attorneys, the traditional path of practicing law in a Big Law or traditional law firm environment is the clear path of choice. After all, there is quite a bit of prestige associated with working in a Big Law firm environment.
But with that prestige, comes a host of other issues – especially for women and minorities – including sexism, discrimination, and pay inequity. These issues have been well documented by studies done by American Bar Association, investigative journalists, and by most women and minorities who have practiced in law firms.
For instance, there is inherent bias and stereotypes that women who have families will be less productive members of the firm. And women’s salaries, work opportunities, and treatment in law firms reflect this. So many strong, smart attorneys love what they do, but are continually beaten down by the law firm structure in which they practice.
Pay equity is another issue that is pervasive in many traditional law firm environments. This is because most attorneys only take home a third to half of what they collect on their billable hours. That means that for every year you, as an attorney, spends working in a traditional firm environment, you are only taking home one-third of what you are billing a client. This means if you have a $1.5 million book of business, you’re taking home $500,000-$750,000 of your billable work.
That’s assuming you aren’t also being discriminated at your firm. There is a sex disparity in pay. Women are only making 78 cents for every one dollar their male counterpart is earning. The statistics are even more alarming for minorities and women of color. Black women are paid just 64 cents, and Latina women earn 56 cents for every dollar earned by white men.
So besides the fact your law firm is already taking a large chunk of your pay for it’s overhead expenses, you may also not be making the same as your male colleagues. It’s time to embrace a new law firm model that empowers women and minorities to earn their worth. That’s why I started Vanst Law, a Modern Law Firm where all attorneys are partners with their own book of business. They set their own rates and decide when and how many hours they work each month. And most importantly, attorneys earn a minimum of 70 percent of what they collect on their own clients.
Let’s break down that earnings equation. I’ll use myself as an example. Last year, as a land use attorney, I collected just over $484,000.
If I was working in a traditional law firm – where an attorney takes home one-third to half of what they collect – I would have been paid only $161,333 to $242,000. At Vanst, I am being paid at least $338,800.
Not only is that a lot more than what I’d earn in a traditional law firm setting, I am practicing law in an environment that allows attorneys to practice where they want, when the want; in a virtual environment with no long commutes to an office, no face time, and no office politics.
Additionally, when attorneys are earning their worth, they’re also benefiting their clients. When at attorney works at a firm like Vanst, they set their own schedule and their own monetary goals. They are not constrained by minimums set by firm hierarchy. This leaves the attorney to make the best decisions for the client.
The prestige of a Big Law career and working in a traditional law firm setting certainly has its rewards. However it’s not the only path. There is a new Modern Law Firm model that allows attorneys to earn their worth and control their future.
Cynthia Morgan-Reed is the CEO of Vanst Law, LLP., a modern law firm that is changing the culture one attorney at a time. If you are interested in joining Vanst, complete the New Partner Candidate Questionnaire.