Food for thought: Consider these recent articles:
- The New York Times reports that onshore LPOs (Legal Process Outsourcers) are offering contract-lawyer jobs starting around $20/hour, or $40K/year… and are finding numerous takers. Most of us in the industry have seen this for a while, but the size of the article in the Times suggests that the phenomenon is of general interest. Clients certainly read the New York Times… and may see it as validation of an area where they’ve been hesitant to be a first mover. The article doesn’t quite make the connection that there are some very experienced attorneys making the move for lifestyle reasons; $60K-$80K/year for a low-stress lifestyle outside big cities isn’t luxurious by any means, but it will pay the bills and leave plenty of time to see all of your kids’ Little League games, have dinner at home most every night, and volunteer to help out at school. In other words, it’s not just recent graduates who can’t get a BigLaw job who are going this route.
- The American Lawyer has a recent article on the AmLaw Second Hundred taking both work and partners from the AmLaw One Hundred. Clients may find increasingly attractive the combination of top-tier attorneys with strong firm support systems and significantly lower billing rates.
- Nathan Koppel in the WSJ Law Blog suggests that the AmLaw 200 is breaking not at the 100 mark but at 23, expanding on thoughts by ALM’s Aric Press. In other words, there is a top tier of (only) 23 firms. Press uses the word “chasm.”
Also consider this exchange from Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises:
“How did you go bankrupt?”
“Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.”
How did Windows lose mindshare to Apple? Two ways; gradually, then suddenly. How did the change of government in Egypt happen a few months ago? Two ways. How did the Mariners become such a terrible team after winning 116 games in a season just a decade ago? Two ways.
Will we see such a change in the way the business of legal is structured?
I don’t know. Maybe.
But if it does happen, if it is happening, here’s how it will occur:
Gradually, then suddenly.