I sing the praises of our local McKinney Performing Arts Center. I bought tickets to a Duncan Sheik concert to be held tomorrow night on-line. The user interface and search engine was not ideal, but regardless of how non-ideal this interface was, the reality is that through user error I managed to reserve two tickets separated from one another by 12 seats. On Valentine's Day, this user error seemed rather more disheartening than it might have seemed on an ordinary Saturday night.
I telephoned the ticket office late this afternoon. The director of ticketing got on the phone, issued no recriminations, found me 2 contiguous seats, refunded me the modest difference in price, and set it up for easy access through an internet account. This is the way ticketing used to work--and works at this place notwithstanding my error.
Tonight on my drive home I saw a big Texas sky.
This week 1,000 people got laid off by a couple of large law firms in the east. About 2/3rds of them were support staff. Although legal support staff are far better paid than support staff of many other professions, all but a very few highly qualified paralegals make mere fractions of what attorneys make. Also, while attorneys typically get a few months' severance, support staff rarely get very much severance.
In a "normal" economy, this makes some sense, as lawyers require longer to replace jobs than do support staff members, who are typically in demand. In this economy, though, it's not a given that the next support staff job is just around the corner.
I feel badly for support staff at law firms in this recession.
A number of firms have no choice, because when the work is not there, then keeping staff won't magically create the work. I do not favor one-size-fits-all platitudes in this very tough time. I must admit, though, that I'd like to hear more stories of highly-compensated firm owners taking a little less from the till, and keeping more attorneys and staff onboard. During the boom times, larger law firms made a number of irresponsible decisions, hiring young attorneys at sky-high salaries, and increasing billing rates to astronomic levels. Salaries could come down, a bit, billing rates could moderate slightly, and things might still work out.
I heard a Canadian marketing expert say something recently about how employers need to get more creative about cutting other expenses to keep employees on board. I was skeptical about this starry-eyed glibness when I heard it--but now I begin to think it makes sense. I'd like to see more salary cuts in place of layoffs,
when possible. It's not always possible--and the news has been full of law firms doing odd things like assessing even non-equity partners with "cash calls" to maintain capital in light of the devastated lending environment.
I still believe that an approach other than panic must meet the times at hand. We are a consumer economy. We had a huge bubble built on unsustainable over-consumption. The current crisis resulted. Yet those who still have jobs--the vast majority of us--must not succumb to panic. The serpent of despair feeds upon itself, worsening the situation. Instead, prudent consumption, sensible steps to try to keep people employed, and even efforts at private industry job creation--those are the keys.
I don't have some great cure-all, nor even a great catch-phrase. But I'd love to see a bit more down-to-earth focus on the problems at hand, and less financial panic in this difficult time.