Biglaw is dying

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby TLSModBot » Sat Feb 11, 2017 10:48 am

It's irritating that we do this every year

Can someone dig up last year's thread when I actually took the time to post the AmLaw research and industry reports showing trends in BigLaw

In the meanwhile here's the big picture:
1. The market isn't growing and hasn't for several years now.
2. We're getting more efficient and clients are demanding it
3. Complex work remains largely untouched so senior associate retention and counsel hiring becomes more important than junior associate over leveraging

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby TLSModBot » Sat Feb 11, 2017 10:51 am

Biglaw isn't dying but it will contract, permanently. An increasing number of firms are folding up and merging out of desperation

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby mvp99 » Sat Feb 11, 2017 10:52 am

Glasseyes wrote:
jrf12886 wrote:I'm not sure how automation will affect litigation outside the doc review context. I don't see computers writing briefs, writing letters to opposing counsel/the court, taking depositions, or attending conferences/hearings. They may become more involved in legal research, however.

And even with respect to doc review, there will always have to be a human involved, at least to do (1) QA of responsiveness calls (no client will just let a computer decide what to produce and blindly press the send key),(2) privilege determinations, and (3) reviewing documents produced by the other side to build your case/defense and prepare for depos.


Academics actually suggest we will see computers drafting briefs and memos in the next decade, and the professions are at almost as much risk as blue collar jobs (which are already gone and never coming back, but no one yet told the workers [or the president]). AI is going to reach a point where it can do virtually anything better than humans, at which point you won't need any of us around. When that happens is anyone's guess, but judging by the rate at which machines can learn, I'd peg it around 10-15 years. Bottoms up.

For further depressing reading, this was published just today:
https://www.wired.com/2017/02/ai-threat ... dle-class/

And this is probably the most thorough scholarly work to date:
https://www.amazon.com/Future-Professio ... rofessions

The next step in the evolution of societies in develop countries is getting rid of the concept of a job for most people or distribute what little we have to do to everyone. Eventually life will be about either research (until computer can formulate good questions too) and learning how to just live when everything is taken care of for us.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby TLSModBot » Sat Feb 11, 2017 11:01 am


obx

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby obx » Sat Feb 11, 2017 11:03 am

Capitol_Idea wrote:Biglaw isn't dying but it will contract, permanently. An increasing number of firms are folding up and merging out of desperation



Thanks, you and Smaug (unironically). Makes sense. I wonder how close we are to "the new normal", I guess.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby umichman » Sat Feb 11, 2017 11:08 am

By the time this stuff comes true, we'll all be big law partners anyways and we can use it to fire all the associates and not have to pay them this crazy salary they pay us. :D :mrgreen:

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby Pokemon » Sat Feb 11, 2017 11:30 am

obx wrote:
Capitol_Idea wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Capitol_Idea wrote:Things that can be automated in whole or part, or at least made drastically simpler so as to net reduce billable hours:
1. Doc Review
2. Most aspects of diligence related to reading and parsing contracts
3. A ton of finance document updating/drafting/organization/sig page bullshit
4. Legal research

There is so much more to law than this, but note that the above is largely junior associate work. We might see more streamlined firms with smaller starting classes, which might as well be a fucking recession as far as law students are concerned.


Legal research is one of the most complex aspects of law,
and no it will not be easy to automate. You can teach a computer to find a case that states the elements of unjust enrichment, but a lot of research is more complicated than that (and often it is by doing the research that you develop new arguments).

Think bigger picture

Once upon a time research was done in physical books and took ages. As Westlaw and Lexi's came along we got keyword searches, shephardizing, and other categorization features. Now we are seeing some really audacious conceptual linking that can A. help you find cases faster and B. start incorporating compiled analytics like certain argument success rates.

Sure associates will "do the research" but when something that took 10 hours now takes 2, you've massively slashed the market. And if you think clients will pay for endless research in most cases then you're either still a law student or insulated at a higher end firm doing bet-the-company Lit (which, surprise, is not representative of the market)


I agree with the general argument (what took 10 hours will eventually take 2) but I don't think I understand the conclusion. Computerized westlaw also slashed the amount of time it took to do legal research, but firms still hire 100s of attorneys and make money hand over fist.


Not sure if it did. These days you are expected to research more than in the past. also, at least for transactional, law firms have a lot of institutional knowledge that you do not necessarily need ai for. I rarely would research an issue when much easier to send an email to the rest of my practice whether they have seen such a structure before.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby jbagelboy » Sat Feb 11, 2017 12:17 pm

umichman wrote:By the time this stuff comes true, we'll all be big law partners anyways and we can use it to fire all the associates and not have to pay them this crazy salary they pay us. :D :mrgreen:


How do you think partners receive their compensation? High associate blables

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby smaug » Sat Feb 11, 2017 12:31 pm

Capitol_Idea wrote:Biglaw isn't dying but it will contract, permanently. An increasing number of firms are folding up and merging out of desperation


I agree generally but litigation finance maturing may push growth for a while.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby Hutz_and_Goodman » Sat Feb 11, 2017 1:28 pm

People have been saying this for decades

Also, keep in mind that the law becomes more complex ever single year: more cases, more statutes, more regulations, etc.

The tools will get better and cut down the time needed, but even now with very good tools like Westlaw you need many associates, and there are still (not infrequently) mistakes or issues overlooked.

I think Big law will stay the same and/or contract a little bit, but we are nowhere near having machines that can do what the average Big law associate can do.

Also, keep in mind that technology creates new types of legal work. For instance, parties often aggressively negotiate the search terms used for a document search, the platform to be used, etc. These are not scintillating legal issues but they are billable and you need a human being to do them.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby Easterbork » Sat Feb 11, 2017 2:22 pm

I don't know what "firm" you work for, but wake me up when computers are writing briefs that have the passion that makes one exceptional. I am not a scribe. Even a deal lawyer can't be truly great unless he or she understands the hopes, fears, aspirations, etc. of the players.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby TLSModBot » Sat Feb 11, 2017 2:24 pm

Easterbork wrote:I don't know what "firm" you work for, but wake me up when computers are writing briefs that have the passion that makes one exceptional. I am not a scribe. Even a deal lawyer can't be truly great unless he or she understands the hopes, fears, aspirations, etc. of the players.

I love this shtick

Please post more

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby androstan » Sat Feb 11, 2017 3:25 pm

In my first three 2.5 years of practice I've spent maybe fifty hours doing doc review. Once the cheap k reviewers and/or ai algorithm has done basic tagging, it just doesn't take long to find what you need via solid boolean searches and rapid skimming.

Also with Westlaw headnotes and keycite I can get an answer to most legal questions in my field in a couple hours.

These things are already heavily automated, we are currently at a point of diminishing returns if we tried to automate further. Once there is another breakthrough in ai, if it is big enough to be worth using instead of a few hours of my time, we are probably in robot overlord/caves of steel territory.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby Desert Fox » Sat Feb 11, 2017 3:35 pm

Finding cases faster doesn't always mean less work. I can run a quick search and if the results suck I move on. If you can actually find every relevant district court case you'll have more cases to read.

Back when we went from reporters and indexes to west law, I bet we spent more time now. If there wasn't a case there wasn't a case.

Watson lexis will probably just cost jobs at lexis and westlaw. They spend a lot of man hours summarizing and cataloging cases. That will go away.
Last edited by Desert Fox on Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby wiseowl » Sat Feb 11, 2017 4:02 pm

Capitol_Idea wrote:
Easterbork wrote:I don't know what "firm" you work for, but wake me up when computers are writing briefs that have the passion that makes one exceptional. I am not a scribe. Even a deal lawyer can't be truly great unless he or she understands the hopes, fears, aspirations, etc. of the players.

I love this shtick

Please post more


It's almost as good as "LOOK AT THE TRENDS DOC REVIEW WILL BE AUTOMATED MOMENTARILY!!!"

Let me know the first client that permits doc review for any meaningful case to be automated and let me know the first judge that doesn't rain sanctions all over the first party that says "well your honor yea we should have produced that but Watson said it wasn't responsive."

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby TLSModBot » Sat Feb 11, 2017 4:30 pm

wiseowl wrote:
Capitol_Idea wrote:
Easterbork wrote:I don't know what "firm" you work for, but wake me up when computers are writing briefs that have the passion that makes one exceptional. I am not a scribe. Even a deal lawyer can't be truly great unless he or she understands the hopes, fears, aspirations, etc. of the players.

I love this shtick

Please post more


It's almost as good as "LOOK AT THE TRENDS DOC REVIEW WILL BE AUTOMATED MOMENTARILY!!!"

Let me know the first client that permits doc review for any meaningful case to be automated and let me know the first judge that doesn't rain sanctions all over the first party that says "well your honor yea we should have produced that but Watson said it wasn't responsive."

Uh literally this weekend I'm setting up predictive coding instead of a responsiveness review for an entire HSR Second Request. No review team, no contractors, 1-2 days of training the system and a max of 5K docs reviewed instead of 100K. Yeah lit is slower on adoption but sucks to suck I guess

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby TLSModBot » Sat Feb 11, 2017 4:32 pm

But lol if you only see the extremes "everything automated" or "nothing ever automated or made more efficient at all!"

Just lol

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby TLSModBot » Sat Feb 11, 2017 4:36 pm

Also if you want actual judge names, Nan Nolan out somewhere in the 7th circuit, Grimm whose a Maryland Federal district court judge, Shira Scheindlin in SDNY (shit she just retired), and a shitload of magistrates who actually control the discovery process like Andrew Peck or Facciola

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby Desert Fox » Sat Feb 11, 2017 4:38 pm

Biglaw should die because I don't think we add much value. You could do 25% of the work and get 99% of the results. Sometimes that 1% is really worth that extra 3X cost. But it's mostly not.

But it's always been this way. Not sure it'll change anytime soon.
Last edited by Desert Fox on Sat Jan 27, 2018 1:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby Johann » Sat Feb 11, 2017 4:40 pm

I did not mean to say legal partners wouldn't be needed. Just that the model of biglaw with highly leveraged associate to partner ratios is probably dead for people accepted into law school now/future graduating in 2020 and beyond.

Nothing you can do if you're in the industry already really but wait and see but it's risky as fuck for smart people with career options to choose law at this point.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby Johann » Sat Feb 11, 2017 4:44 pm

It's also becoming a lot more common to do flat fees which means there is no incentive to create billable work for junior associates unless absolutely necessary.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby TLSModBot » Sat Feb 11, 2017 4:46 pm

JohannDeMann wrote:I did not mean to say legal partners wouldn't be needed. Just that the model of biglaw with highly leveraged associate to partner ratios is probably dead for people accepted into law school now/future graduating in 2020 and beyond.

Nothing you can do if you're in the industry already really but wait and see but it's risky as fuck for smart people with career options to choose law at this point.

Even this is probably a little over pessimistic regarding timeline but essentially I agree. Lower leverage and more focus on development/retention. The Cravath Model up-or-out pyramid system ain't gonna cut it long term

Disagree about commonality of flat fees but the second a serious player caves and compiles metrics on their billing so that they can accurately offer flat fees profitably, it'll go that way

Eta and not your Seyfarths or Crowell Mornings either. Like fucking Skadden would have to pull this shit and good luck with that

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby Johann » Sat Feb 11, 2017 4:59 pm

Most lit boutiques are flat fee. It's not something to agree/disagree with other than being a fact. There's no doubt V10 is using flat fees on some of their matters too as they all have portions of their site dedicated to alternative fee arrangements.

ETA - Kirkland specifically prides themselves on business acumen/speaking the clients language and is a flat fee leader. Skadden has the same business acumen culture. GCs of corps have been wanting flat fees for years now, and with enough places to get it (sorry Skadden but Kirkland does flat fee so you will to or we will leave) GCs don't have to cave on that negotiation point. Businesses love set costs for budget certainty. Billable hour will be dead in 5 years.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby 2014 » Sat Feb 11, 2017 5:18 pm

It's an interesting question because it's not like a junior's value add is 100% the work they do. A big part of the reason juniors exist is to sit there long enough to be a midlevel and senior whose work won't be automated in any near time frame.

Point being fine, a firm that manages to automate doc review and diligence and signature pages and obviate the need for some portion of its junior workforce is, unless other changes happen, just setting itself up to be understaffed in the class years that count 3-7 years down the road. I think there's a good argument that even if EVERY first and maybe second year hour is written off (or if you just have them sitting around billing 1k hours a year getting paid market) that the cost is justified and rapidly recouped by some multiple every year they stay beyond the first 1-2.

Really the model isn't going anywhere till retention rates are fixed, and retention rates aren't getting fixed without drastically reworking firm culture generally or disproportionately jacking up midlevel/senior compensation. It's going to take a drastic market shock beyond law watson 2.0 to make that happen.

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Re: Biglaw is dying

Postby Johann » Sat Feb 11, 2017 5:29 pm

For sure, but this means interviews will be much more based on personality and "partner" potential. The classes hired by some of these biglaw firms they know are hiring people that have no chance of ever being partner/schmoozing material. Instead of hiring someone that's personality sucks that will be forced out in years 3-5 after billing their tail off behind the scrnes, they just won't hire them initially.

It also requires you to have a little bit of faith in rainmaker partners that believe they owe it to the future of the firm to train the next class. Most partners don't give a shit though and will risk sacrificing a firms future for their 3rd vacation home or boat (e.g. See Dewey LeBoeuf). Plenty of partners engage in non sustainable long term behavior to max profits now. Again, that's a big risk.



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