Denver Bar Association
September 2009
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Can Lawyers Work AND Play??

by Leah M. Carlson

Can you work at a law firm and still have a life? This issue was debated recently by Ken Stern, founding partner at Stern, Elkind, Curray & Alterman and chair of the newly formed CBA 2020 Law Firm Initiative Committee, and Jack Hanley, executive director of Reilly Pozner.

A task for the new committee, as described on their website, is "creating new models for practicing law in the future that address important issues and demographic realities, and provide a more balanced work environment."

Balance? Does that mean taking a lunch? Going to the health club? Attending your daughter’s softball playoffs?

Stern says yes. He painted a rosy picture for the audience in the form of a new (so far imaginary) law firm.

For a more detailed look at the debate, see the September issue of
The Colorado Lawyer

He envisions happy, hard-working and loyal attorneys who are given the opportunity to choose how many hours they want to work for pay commensurate with their hours. These attorneys, he said, are committed to being flexible and to making sure that a core number of hours are spent in the office. Stern believes the firm will attract "the best and the brightest," appealing to those who want to scale back, those who want more of a family life, and new attorneys who want a balanced and flexible work schedule.

After telling the audience he had been assigned a role and didn’t necessarily agree with his own points, Jack Henley urged the practical side — that law firms aren’t structured to operate in the progressive manner Stern described, particularly because "the glory days are over" and many law firms are struggling in today’s market. Rather than focusing on attorney needs, Hanley argued that current trends will force successful legal practices toward a consumer-oriented model.

Members of the committee said this CLE was an important chance for them to hear the concerns of attorneys, ones they hope to address as their work continues.

Ken Stern, right, founding partner at Stern, Elkind, Curray & Alterman, and chair of the newly formed CBA 2020 Law Firm Initiative Committee , and Jack Hanley, center, executive director of Reilly Pozner host the Great Debate, June 18, along with Beth Doherty Quinn left.

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