Friday, April 20, 2012
That is the title of an essay posted on blog of the The Atlantic magazine. Jordan Weissman, a journalist who formerly worked in the business operations side of a major law firm, reviews the profitability of the most elite law firms pre-crash (2001-2007) and post-crash (2007-2010). [See charts below] The slide into lower profitability is what is causing the run-on-the-bank at Dewey LeBoeuf, a storied firm on the brink of collapse.
Dewey LeBoeuf, like the Howrey firm which failed slightly over a year ago, are almost certainly on the lefthand side of the 2007 to 2010 profitability chart. Weissman's conclusion is pretty simple: the industry is running out of gas. More failures are likely. Unfortunately, I agreed.
For the record, legal education's problems are no less severe. There are not enough qualified students to fill the number of 1L seats, so as an industry, our revenues (akin to law firm profits) are going to go down. The entire legal services and legal education industry is undergoing a major disruption. All of this talk of structural change is going to move from the abstract, where we contest it the premise, to the concrete, which induces panic among the unprepared. It is going to be very tough. Our character is going to be tested.
Paradoxically, making decisions based on our professional values rather than self-interest will be the key to survivial. More on that later. I have to prepare for the Lawyer of the Future Conference at Pepperdine University School of Law.
[posted by Bill Henderson]