The American Lawyer’s annual ranking of law firms by size and economic performance is law’s version of the Oscars. It is highly anticipated, widely viewed, and the subject of considerable discussion. It has been a staple of the legal industry since its inception in 1986. What began as the 200 largest, most profitable firms—‘The AmLaw200’– gave way to the AmLaw100. This year’s rankings revealed a growing divide between the top and bottom halves of those 100 firms. The top 50 firms are going strong while the bottom tier show stress cracks, notably a drop in revenue per lawyer. It might well be ‘The AmLaw50’ in next year’s survey. The 2017 Georgetown Report, another legal industry bellwether, reveals that 20—not 50—firms have achieved fiscal separation and are in a league of their own. What is the significance of the winnowing of 200 surveyed firms to a fraction of the original number? [Read more…]
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the regulatory body that oversees the legal profession in England and Wales, has enacted a major overhaul of legal training and solicitor licensure to take effect in 2020. Gone is the requirement solicitors must acquire a law degree for practice. In its place is a competency-based examination offering different paths to becoming a solicitor. The exam will not spell the end of traditional legal education in the UK—no doubt many aspiring solicitors will opt for some form of traditional legal study. But the exam’s emphasis on competency based learning and its experiential requirements will undoubtedly serve to update outdated legal curricula, reduce law student debt, and better serve the public by ensuring new entrants to the profession have core competency and a modicum of practical experience. If this sounds like medical training, it does to me, too.
Michael Corkery’s recent New York Times article, ‘Is Retail at a Historic Tipping Point?’ is well worth the read. It describes the retail industry’s rapid transition from stores and malls to online shopping. The article exposes the the human toll the transition has effected–fewer jobs and lower pay except senior management. Technology has changed the buy/sell dynamic, enabling new delivery models to unseat the incumbent one. Let’s examine Mr. Corkery’s analysis of retail and compare it to the legal marketplace. [Read more…]
Competition for corporate legal work is keen. Law firms vie with each other for a shrinking segment of outsourced legal work. Corporate legal departments and a growing array of well capitalized, tech and process savvy service providers now account for an almost 50% of legal spend. It’s not surprising, then, that law firms are stepping up investment in marketing and business development activities. Will this narrow the growing delta between rising demand for legal services and declining call for law firms? Short answer: not unless law firms address the myriad of reasons for client dissatisfaction as well as differentiate themselves.
The legal profession has a dismal record on diversity—especially large law firms. Between 2007 and 2015, there was a decline in the number of black attorneys in big firms. And, per the same study conducted by the Minority Corporate Counsel Association and Vault.com, the number of Asian-American lawyers receiving promotions in 2014 was less than in 2007.