A fourth of Big Law is about to disappear

Cite this Article
Larry Ribstein, A fourth of Big Law is about to disappear, Truth on the Market (September 29, 2010), https://truthonthemarket.com/2010/09/29/a-fourth-of-big-law-is-about-to-disappear/

Am Law Daily reports on a Hildebrandt analysis (HT Law Blog) predicting “that nearly 27 percent of the 65,000 non-partner positions at Am Law 200 firms could be cut or recategorized as lower-paying positions over the next five to seven years.”  Causes include “flat demand for legal services,” price pressure from clients, outsourcing, Six Sigma strategies, and hiring off the partnership track.

Hildebrandt’s Lisa Smith says “it’s unrealistic for us to expect that the law business is going to be any different than any other business in terms of the changing need for talent.”

Actually I think this is too optimistic.  I have been insisting for awhile now that the economy was only the trigger of permanent decline in the demand for Big Law’s services.  Indeed, the factors cited in the Hildebrandt analysis support this:  outsourcing and other pressures on client demand will not go away when the economy improves.  Just because clients have more money to spend doesn’t mean they’ll spend it on legal services when they don’t have to.

On the other hand, this is only a gloomy piece of a bigger picture.  There’s an increasing need for legal talent in an increasingly regulated society.  That talent, however, is less likely to be working for Big Law.