PKSebben wrote:There is so much shit-tastic speculation in here, I want to punch myself in the junk until I forget my name.
Biglaw is not dead. Comparing biglaw to midlaw is like comparing McDonalds to Peter Lugers. Sure they're still in the same business of serving food, but NOT TO THE SAME CLIENT BASE.
Maybe the lockstep model of compensation is done, but we'll see about that. 1st years just aren't profitable for the firm at what they're paid now. The only way they can even get them close to being profitable is by working them until near death. I think that you'll see compensation moved to a tiered billable system more than what you see now. Also, I think you'll stop seeing firms leverage so hard. Maybe firms are content to over leverage during good times and dump those attorneys when business is down -- I think it all depends on whether firms take a reputation hit or not. Nobody contests that we're in uncharted territory as far as law firm economics go, but the biglaw business strategy is sound. Perhaps the billable hour system eats it, perhaps lockstep comp eats it, but most of the Vault 100 firms aren't going anywhere.
Biglaw thrives because oftentimes the deals / litigation involved are bet the fucking company. Sure, any number of firms could do the work, but they want the best. They don't even hire firms, they hire PRACTICE AREAS, and often SPECIFIC PARTNERS in the firm. You people here make it seem like your local toilet law could do the work the big shops do and that's simply not true. The big boys have serious experience in complicated matters. Big boy rainmakers with big boy clients need the support services of a full-service firm to be able to get their work done, so it's not like partners could just split off into an office above their house and still do the work.
I suggest that the tin-foil hat crowd predicting the eventual downfall of biglaw educate themselves on firm economics. It's the compensation / billing structures that are in jeopardy, not the overall system.
I won't be specific just to protect the innocent, but just think about (or if you don't know off-hand, look into) which cases Big Law handles. From the cases I know, just think Fortune 50 company being hit with a lawsuit that would eliminate half its profits, another being IP sued in a manner that could put it out of business, a different type massive company being sued for multi-billions. May sound kind of rare, but go into business. How many mergers, how many suits of every type are you constantly hit with.
AND ITE, the number of suits, IMO, will drastically increase - when people get desperate, they sue and sue - companies will sue companies, people will go after big cash, everything from malpractice suits to suits against companies, from what I hear, is already jacking up....
Big Law is not dead, but like PK says, the way they compensate newbies may change - which I think could be for the better. Instead of hiring 10 people at 130K each and working them 16 hours a day, they may hire at first 10 people at 100K each, because there's only 10 hours a day - tuitions need to start coming down (they have increased absurdly) due to decreased pay, so debt loads will come down - and as the economy picks up, maybe the pay stays 100K and the hours more reasonable - they don't bet as much on each employee, and hire 13 at 100K instead of 10 at 130K - they are used less for the reasons everyone states above (less people wanting to pay for 1st year assocs) so work fewer hours but the lower pay offsets that. In the end, the more sweatshopish model that handed all the cash to a few while working them to death, maybe, is replaced by a better model for all: for the company, the clients, and law students.
Sorry for being positive/optimistic. I know it's not so in fashion. Big Law dead? Um... I guess Microsoft will just turn to a mid-size firm the next time Apple sues it...