A lifestyle is all about how someone chooses to live their life. A “lifestyle” firm is all about a place were the lawyers have a life to live. And that may not be a good thing, as one firm is finding out.
For years Arent Fox embraced its image as a “lifestyle” firm. But recently the DC shop has reversed course. At the firm’s partnership retreat last month, firm chairman Marc Fleischaker issued a directive to partners to stop referring to Arent Fox as a “lifestyle” firm. The problem, Fleischaker says, is one of perception: “The implication is that you don’t have to work hard. We do work hard and we make a lot of money, so I don’t want people to misconstrue who we are.”
The “lifestyle” moniker got hung on the firm several years ago when an associate satisfaction survey gave Arent Fox high marks on issues ranging from relationships with partners, to training and guidance, to compensation and benefits. The high score led firm leaders to use the positive feedback as a tool to recruit associates.
But Arent Fox found that while the “lifestyle” tag was an effective pitch for young associates, it made a distinctly different impression on potential lateral partners. “I think it hurts you in recruiting aggressive talent,” says Fleischaker. “It’s an implication that you don’t work hard.”
That puts Arent Fox in the seemingly counterintuitive position of now downplaying what was until recently seen as a strength. To some, it’s an unconvincing transformation. “To go after top laterals you have to offer a platform, not wordplay,” says a Washington recruiter. “Either embrace who you are or start going after what you want to be.”