This is a story about a boy named Dan who never cleaned his room. Dan’s mom tried the three ways that she knew to get Dan to clean his room. She threatened him. She bribed him. She tried child psychology. Nothing worked. Finally, she ordered Dan’s little sister Trish to clean Dan’s room.
Trish was unhappy and accused her mother of gender bias, but being socialized to be somewhat more compliant than Dan, she did what she was told. Trish’s friend Mara had a similar experience and also ended up doing her brother’s chores.
Later in life Dan and Mara both became Associates at the same law firm. Dan spent much of his time billing like crazy and the rest of his time wining and dining potential clients. Occasionally the Managing Partner would ask Dan to serve on the Articling Committee, or supervise the implementation of some new software, or lead a firm marketing initiative, or do something else that was not billing or self-promotion. Dan always said that he was too busy or took on the project and ignored it. The Managing Partner stopped asking.
The Managing Partner turned to Mara who invariably said yes and applied her phenomenal organizational and people skills to all of the projects that Dan would not do. By then she was used to the idea that if the person in charge could not get any of the men to do what was required, the women would usually be asked to step up and make things happen.
Eventually Dan was up for partnership. His billings were huge. His originating credits were even bigger. He was a shoo-in, although the Partners did say that it would be nice if he could contribute to other areas of the business as well. Dan said that he would work on that, so the firm admitted him as a Partner and Dan promptly forgot all about that non-billable nonsense.
Mara also wanted to be a partner, but the Partners told her that although they appreciated her many contributions to the firm, they could not offer her a partnership because her billable hours were low and her client base was small. They told her to work on that and that they would reconsider her when she got her numbers up. Then they asked her if she would be agreeable to helping develop the new mentoring program.
Mara voted with her feet.
Last I heard the firm asked Dan if he could head up the new mentoring program, but Dan said that he was too busy. So they asked Susan to do it. Anxious to show that she was a team player, Susan took on the job.
I suspect that my female readers know what this story is about. For those of my male readers who are too dense to figure it out, it is about the departure of women from law firms and the growing body of anecdotal evidence that there is gender bias in the profession which results in women being assigned a disproportionate share of non-billable tasks, leaving men free to bill big bucks and develop their client base. Maybe it isn’t true, but methinks that it is.
Oh, for those of you who are unconvinced and want some scientific evidence, look here: https://texaslawreview.org/the-cost-of-non-billable-work/