Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The New Republic: Yes, Big Law Really Is Dying:
My cover story in the current issue of The New Republic, about what it’s like to work in a large law firm during an age of austerity, has generated a lot of interest both inside and outside the legal profession. Among the outsiders, the response has generally been along the lines of, “Good God am I glad I never went to law school.” Among insiders, the reaction has been divided. Many current and former lawyers at big firms have told me the picture I’ve painted is distressingly accurate. Others—particularly those who work in the legal trade press—have complained that my thesis is overstated.
This group had three main objections to the piece, all related. The first was that my specific prediction for the speed and depth of Big Law’s coming collapse was too pessimistic. The second was that my piece was ignorant of history: I argued that the profession had been remarkably stable and cushy up until the last few years—up until last week, in one critic’s cartoonish retelling—at which point the whole industry abruptly gave out. But, these writers point out, Big Law has gone through tough times before. Finally, the critics argued that Big Law has always bounced back after these rough patches, and that the numbers show law firms recovering nicely this time too. I was wrong to see an existential crisis in what was simply a cyclical downturn—one that’s mostly behind us, moreover.
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