Just look at the articles in this week's issue – one lot of solicitors bringing action over a bonus scheme and then another claiming for work-related stress. Who knows, perhaps those Wilson Sonsini assistants down to their last hundred grand or so might bring a case connected to diminished bonuses stateside.
Now I am not an employment lawyer or a tribunal judge, nor have I seen the detailed claims involved, so far be it for me to comment on the individual cases that will stand on their own merit. However, there is a more general point to be addressed.
I am no apologist for law firms running assistant sweatshops in return for high partner profits, and have said as much in the past. But my personal view, based on nothing whatsoever, is that sometimes assistants need to realise that the deal goes two ways.
If you want to earn the mega bucks that you can get in a City firm – with the most highest paid newly-qualifieds earning twice the maximum earnings of a nurse – then you have to accept that it is going to be hard. Just as if you are going to become a journalist you cannot be a little shrinking violet. No one is forced into becoming a City lawyer through lack of choice. If you are not prepared to accept everything that comes with the job then work in a smaller practice or go in-house, but come to terms with living in Balham not Islington. You will still be able to afford a mortgage.
And if you are lucky enough to receive a bonus from your firm then that is what it says – an added extra. There is a chance in a changing climate that the rules might change, and if there is a recession looming then those now complaining about bonus schemes may one day look back fondly on the days when there was extra cash floating about. When the salary stops coming then people will really start feeling the stress.
This is not a call to return to the days of the sweatshop, far from it. It is just a reminder that along with rights come responsibilities, and also that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Fiona Callister, deputy editor