Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Because the U.S. News & World Report ranking era has been associated with so much turmoil and bad behavior, many of us in legal education tend to think of the magazine as the source of woes. In fact, the evidence compiled in an new paper on SSRN, "Enduring Hierarchies in American Legal Education," suggest that our desire (or propensity) to establish a legal education pecking order predates the U.S. News rankings by century or so. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity -- at least that is what the data seem to suggest.
My brilliant and industrious colleagues, Funmi Arewa and Andy Morriss, led the charge on this. For many, a major contribution of this research will be the detailed 40+ tables compiled at the end of the article. Now that all that fact-gathering work is done, others can use it. Below is the paper's abstract:
Although much attention has been paid to U.S. News & World Report’s rankings of U.S. law schools, the hierarchy it describes is a long-standing one rather than a recent innovation. In this Article, we show the presence of a consistent hierarchy of U.S. law schools from the 1930s to the present, provide a categorization of law schools for use in research on trends in legal education, and examine the impact of U.S. News’s introduction of a national, ordinal ranking on this established hierarchy. The Article examines the impact of such hierarchies for a range of decision-making in law school contexts, including the role of hierarchies in promotion, tenure, publication, and admissions, for employers in hiring, and for prospective law students in choosing a law school. This Article concludes with suggestions for ways the legal academy can move beyond existing hierarchies and at the same time address issues of pressing concern in the legal education sector. Finally, the Article provides a categorization of law schools across time that can serve as a basis for future empirical work on trends in legal education and scholarship.
Posted by Bill Henderson
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
The Legal Whiteboard was created to focus on "facts, trends, and ideas on law and legal education." Well, nothing is more salient these days than the rise of the legal tech sector which -- trust me here -- is growing rapidly and will soon hit a tipping point. What happens at the tipping point? The tastes of clients and highly talented workers shift, leaving old institutions very vulnerable.
If you are interested in this topic and want a time-efficient primer, check out this ABA Journal podcast, which went live yesterday. It is 15 minutes long and can be downloaded. Thanks to good questions from ABA editor Reg Davis, and some editing magic, the interview is a pretty good starting place for the uninitiated -- the only downside is that you have to listen to me, as interview keys off the "Who's Eating Law Firms' Lunch" story (Oct ABA Journal).
Our conversation is also transcribed.
Monday, September 23, 2013
A few years ago I had the good fortune of teaming up with Rachel Zahorsky for a series of feature stories in the ABA Journal, including "Paradigm Shift" (July 2011), "The Law School Bubble" (Jan 2012), and "The Pedigree Problem" (July 2012). The fourth article, "Who's Eating Law Firms Lunch," is now online; and without a doubt it is my favorite.
Why? Because of the final vignette in the story, which features Dan Katz of ReInvent Law fame. We were sitting at the bar at the January 2013 AALS Conference in New Orleans when Dan told me this story. My jaw just dropped. Dan has faith in his students, just like Bellotti had faith in him. Dan believes, so Dan just does. No fear. No bullshit. It was, suffice to say, quite refreshing.
I am reposting the whole vignette in the hope that a few more academics, lawyers, and law students will read it. The title of the post is the last line in the story. To my mind, that Dan Katz line sums up the next ten years of innovation in legal education. Please keep reading until you get to that final line. The insight is worth the effort.
For the past two years, MSU’s Katz was the only full-time law professor who spoke at the LegalTech conference. Katz and Knake are creating a curriculum relevant to the emerging law and technology sector, albeit primarily for companies like Novus Law and Recommind, whose competitive advantage is rooted in process and technology.
Within the legal academy, Katz is an anomaly. Aside from his JD, he has a PhD in political science and public policy from the University of Michigan. However, he focused almost all of his graduate study on complex systems. It’s a relatively new scientific field that uses mathematical modeling to understand how a multitude of human and nonhuman factors interact and influence one another. Human society and the human brain are two examples of complex systems. Neither can be effectively modeled by conventional math or statistics.
The late Larry Ribstein at the University of Illinois was one of Katz’s early mentors. When he went into teaching a few years ago, Katz says, Ribstein told him: “I bet you must feel like an alien. I greatly admire your work. You are definitely on the right track. But the rest of the legal academy is just not ready for you.”
In June 2011, Katz joined the faculty at MSU Law. Michigan State partnered with the Detroit College of Law in 1995 and moved the law college into a building in East Lansing two years later. Though the school’s rebranding efforts did raise its profile, to most of the profession, MSU Law remains a nonprestigious regional law school located in the heart of the Rust Belt.
None of this dissuades Katz from his sincere belief that it is possible to turn any institution into the preferred recruiting grounds for the nation’s emerging law-and-tech industry.
“When I was 18 years old,” explains Katz, “I had the privilege of joining a transformative organization”— as a kicker for the University of Oregon football team, the Ducks. “We were in the Pac-10, but it’s in Eugene, Ore., where it is often cloudy and raining. We had no shot at all with the top recruits from Southern California. So coach Mike Bellotti had to figure out ways to stretch and optimize what some might call second-tier talent.
“Oregon is now a national powerhouse, but the seeds of that success were sown much earlier. It was difficult to be bigger or faster than USC or UCLA. So Coach Bellotti decided we would be better on the details of the game. We would be better conditioned and we would pay significant attention to special teams. Our emphasis on special teams got us better field position. And by the third or fourth quarters, our opponents would have their hands on their burning legs. But because of our conditioning regimen, we had more stamina. Our success became contagious. Over time, we were able to get prized recruits. It was a culture of innovation.”
During Bellotti’s tenure at Oregon, from 1995 to 2008, the Ducks had only one losing season, blotting out decades of mediocre performance. The year that Katz graduated, the Ducks were co-champions of the Pac-10, a feat that makes him beam with pride.
Katz’s “secret sauce” for ReInvent Law is arguably much more important than a degree in complex systems. He looks at the 25 students entering the ReInvent Law Laboratory as raw human potential. Katz also actively recruits potential law school applicants to his program, though he declines to discuss his strategy.
Katz understands that the most attractive candidates for the law and technology sector are those with special skills that are often obtained through prelaw work experience. “But there is no reason why some of those key skills and experiences cannot be learned and obtained right here,” Katz says of the MSU program.
He notes that virtually all law students have high cognitive ability. He feels the key to their future success is mastery of domain-specific knowledge—often in areas that are complementary to law—and the ability to collaborate across disciplines. This requires engagement and an immense amount of time spent on the task. So how does one develop the educational program that will prepare the law student for legal-tech jobs—some that may not yet exist?
“This,” Katz says, “is just an education design problem."
Perhaps the key insight is that "data by itself is useless. To extract value from it, you need the ‘three Ts’: talent, technique and transformation.
- Talent. "When you start out, you don’t need the top experts to start making sense of your data. You may just need people with curiosity, good statistical skills and a desire to learn. These are the kind of people who will quickly see how data can be managed and packaged to solve problems. And once they do, they will want to get better at it."
- Technique. "Big Data needn’t mean Big Complexity. ... [A]nalytical techniques can be sophisticated, but it’s also possible to keep it simple – especially at the start of the journey. Get the basics right first, and then you can become more advanced as you get better at it."
- Transformation. "Becoming a data-driven legal team – law firm or corporate – is a journey. Change is slow, so don’t expect an overnight transformation. The best approach is to bring the whole organisation with you - if everyone from the partners and CEOs to the interns buy into your data strategy, it will start delivering returns faster."
So who will be the big winners when it comes to Big Data? Definitely some start-ups become they they don't have to transform -- it's a clean sheet operation from the very beginning; they also have more patience and tolerance for trial and error. Yet, BigLaw is sitting on top of a lot of the essential data, so there will be some winners there too. To my mind, it will turn on the ability of some BigLaw shops to leverage talent and technique into some early victories that will aid the tranformation project. If it works, it will be a case study in strategic leadership and effective change management.
By the way, Wolters Kluwer Corporate Legal Services is a sophisticated place. They own TyMetrix, which is the perhaps the best current example of BigData operating in the BigLaw ecosystem. TyMetrix's Real Rate Report is being used to agressively control lawyer billing rates.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Disruption in the legal industry appears to be crossing an important milestone -- the emergence of the revolving door among the first generation innovators. Evidence comes from this press release published on the Wall Street Journal website.
In 2010, a BigLaw partner leaves BigLaw (DLA Piper) to take a high-level job at Axiom, the most well-known disruptor in the legal industry. Then, 2.5 years later, he leaves to run the Discovery Services practice at Huron Consulting Group. Huron Consulting, by the way, is a publicly traded company (NASDAQ: HURN) with $626 million in revenues in 2012. Legal is one of Huron's core industries. It currently has 1,500 "seats" for conducting 24/7 document review services in the U.S., Europe, and India.
Let's summarize: BigLaw to legal start-up to publicly held company trying to expand its wedge in the legal industry. Granted, career moves are motivated by a wide range of factors, not just a string of successes that create better oppportunities. Outsiders can only speculate why someone changes jobs. That said, in a start-up environment where the market opportunity is large but the know-how to tap into it has to be developed through trial and error, false starts are just part of the learning curve -- the building block of future success. Indeed, there are books and articles on this topic.
What is revealed by the emergence of the revolving door among legal innovators is that there is tremendous opportunity to make traditional legal services better, faster, and cheaper. Talented people are persisting and betting their careers on it. The biggest unknown is timing -- it is risky to get there too early, and disastrous to get there too late. Alas, it is better to wrestle directly with the issue of timing than to deny that the change is real.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Monday, September 16, 2013
The trend toward outsourcing of legal work to India may be giving way to "onshoring." What is the attraction of moving legal jobs back to the US? The wage gap between India and the US is closing, but more importantly, innovation and continuous improvement are significantly aided by proximity.
I heard this perspective from a friend of mine who was part of the management team of a successful LPO that was sold (at a substantial profit) to a much larger legal conglomerate. Indeed, he contemplated getting back into the business, but this time running an onshoring operation.
This identical perspective is on display in a recent Minneapolis StarTribune story on Black Hills IP, a 2.0 legal process outsourcer that provides various types of managed services for all things related to intellectual property. According to its website, Black Hills IP is a "US-based IP paralegal service that is faster, more accurate and more cost-effective than in house departments and off-shore providers." The company appears to be growing, as it did a PR-blitz to commemorate its 100th client. The company was originally started in Rapids City, South Dakota but has since expanded to Minneapolis.
What make this story especially interesting is that many of the folks who started Black Hills IP were sophisticated Minneapolis corporate lawyers who created a company in the early 2000s called Intellevate, a 1.0 LPO that was sending legal work to India. In 2006, Intellevate became part of CPA Global, a much larger LPO. In other words, the folks at Black Hills IP are industry players with much better information than the rest of us who are making bets with their own money.
Unlike traditional law firms, these types of legal vendors are growing rapidly. Their secret sauce appears to be combining high-quality processes with capable, motivated paraprofessional talent.
The challenge for law schools and many practicing lawyers is getting our heads around the fact that, from a pure market perspective, bright legal minds may be less valuable than well-designed and well-executed legal processes and systems. This state of affairs is just as much an opportunity as it is a threat.
One last interesting note suggesting that companies like Black Hills IP are part of the same ecosystem as traditional law firms and law schools: The CEO of Black Hills IP is Ann McCrackin, a former professor of law at Franklin Pierce (now University of New Hampshire School of Law), where she was director of the Patent Prosecution and Procedure Program. Prior to that, McCrackin was a shareholder in Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner, a large patent law firm based in Minneapolis that specializes in high technology.
posted by Bill Henderson
Monday, August 5, 2013
Two constituencies are really worried about their futures. The first is law students and recent law graduates -- they are worried about jobs. The second are state and local bar associations -- they are worried about being relevant to the next generation of lawyers.
So here is my idea. The new guard and the old guard should be talking to each other. It does not take a rocket scientist to see the real opportunity for synergy. If all of us are willing to step outside our comfort zone -- just a little -- we can create new types of bar association events where young lawyers come to have fun, contribute to the community and profession, and develop relationships that put their careers on a clear upward track.
Toward that end, this week's ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco provides us with a golden opportunity. On Friday, August 9 at 8 a.m. at the Hilton SF Union Square, Michael Bossone (co-creator of LawWithoutWalls) and I will be facilitating a plenary session entitled, "A New Age for the Legal Profession Requires a New Age for Bar Associations."
Well, we could not preside over a session where panels of white guys, 50 and older (my own demographic), sit at a head table and opine on the likes and needs of millennial lawyers. So we have invited a large cadre of law students and recent law grads to take part in a more interactive session. The session is big -- nearly 300 bar association presidents and executives from around the country. And we need 1 to 2 students or recent grads per table -- perhaps for the first time, you are the subject matter experts. Michael and I are looking for a few more qualified volunteers. Interested?
If you are proximate to SF and looking to meet some well-connected lawyers from around the nation who are genuinely interested in listening to your (constructive) point of view, please send me an email with #NewAgeBar (our Twitter hashtag) in the subject line. We have a few slots left -- RSVPs are mandated for this event, as space is limited and name tags are required.
If you are a law student or recent law grad and you think going to a bar association event early on a Friday morning is a grand waste of time, I suggest that you read Mark Granovetter's classic book, Getting a Job. This book is a vivid empirical demonstration of Granovetter's seminal 1973 article, "The Strength of Weak Ties," which is one of the most cited social science articles of all time (23,000+ citations and counting).
An example of a strong tie is you and your sorority or faternity friends. Not too good for getting a job. An example of a weak tie might be an acquaintance in the same profession but part of a different generation or living in a different part of the country. As Granovetter shows, these "weak" ties act as bridges and are profoundly influential in opening doors for people. Believe it or not, academic knowledge can accelerate your career. Get out of your comfort zone and give it try.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
As a result of the ABA’s revisions to Standard 509, Consumer Information, there is now a much greater universe of publicly available information about law school scholarship programs, specifically conditional scholarship programs and scholarship retention. Based on a review of law school websites conducted between March 19 and May 29, 2013, I have compiled a complete list of schools with conditional scholarship programs, with only one-year scholarships, with good standing (or guaranteed) scholarships and with only need-based scholarships.
The availability of this data now gives each admitted scholarship recipient some meaningful basis for assessing the likelihood that any given scholarship will be renewed. (That said, within a given cohort of conditional scholarship recipients at a given school, those at the top end of the entering class profile likely retain their scholarships at a higher percentage than reflected in the law school's overall data while those further down the class profile likely retain their scholarships at a lower percentage than reflected in the law school's overall data.)
What do we know about the conditional scholarship programs in place for students entering law school in 2011-12? There were 140 schools with conditional scholarship programs. The average retention rate across all law schools was 69%. In total, 12,735 students who entered law school in the fall of 2011 and continued into their second year of law school at the same school entered with conditional scholarships and 4,387 students lost those scholarships, a retention rate across individual students of 66%. Across the 194 law schools on which I compiled data, the Fall 2011 entering first-year class totaled 46,233, so roughly 27.5% of the students in the Fall 2011 entering first-year class were on conditional scholarships and roughly 9.5% of the students in the Fall 2011 entering first-year class failed to retain their conditional scholarship as they moved into the second year of law school.
The distribution of scholarship retention rates by deciles across all 140 schools reporting conditional scholarship programs is set forth in Table 1. Table 1 shows the largest number of law schools grouped around the overall average retention rate, with 30 law schools in the 60-69% range and 24 law schools in the 70-79% range; nearly 40 percent of law schools with conditional scholarships fall in these two ranges. Interestingly, the decile range of 90% or better is the second largest decile range, with 26 law schools (nearly half of which are ranked 50 or better in the USNEWS ranking). Notably, 23 law schools had scholarship retention rates of less than 50%.
Table 1: Number of Law Schools Reporting Retention Rates by Decile Range
Less than 40%
Four of the eight were law schools ranked alphabetically
Eight of the 15 were law schools ranked between 50 and 99
16 of the 20 were law schools ranked 100 or lower, while only two were in the top 50
23 of the 30 were law schools ranked 100 or lower, while only one was in the top 50
13 of the 24 were law schools ranked in the top 100, but only three of those were in the top 50
12 of the 17 were law schools ranked between 50 and 145
90% or better
12 of the 26 were law schools ranked in the top 50
As shown in Table 2, law schools ranked in the top-50 in the U.S.News 2012 Rankings had the smallest percentage of law schools with conditional scholarship programs, with only 20 law schools – 40% -- having conditional scholarship programs, directly impacting only 1,674 students who had conditional scholarships (12.8% of the 13,109 first-year students at these law schools) and only 192 who failed to retain their scholarships (11.5% of the 1674 conditional scholarship recipients and only 1.5% of the 13,109 first year students). By contrast, across the balance of law schools, over 80% of the law schools had conditional scholarships with 11,061 of the 33,124 first-year students (33.4%) having conditional scholarships and 4,195 (37.9% of those on scholarship and 12.7% of first-years at the balance of law schools) losing their scholarships after their first-year of law school.
Table 2: Number and Percentage of First-Year Students in 2011 Having Conditional Scholarships and Losing Conditional Scholarships by US News Rankings Categories
Top 50 Law Schools
Law Schools Ranked 51-100
Law Schools Ranked 101-146
Law Schools Ranked Alphabetically
Total Number of Law Schools
Number (%) of Law Schools with Conditional Scholarship Programs
Total First-Years at These Law Schools
Number (%) of First-Years with Conditional Scholarships
1,674 (12.8% of all first-year students in top-50 schools)
4,176 (36% of all first-year students in schools 51-100)
2,754 (29.6% of all first-year students in schools 101-145)
4,131 (33.6% of all first-year students at alphabetically-ranked schools)
Number (%) of Conditional Scholarship Recipients NOT Retaining Scholarships
192 (11.5% of conditional scholarship recipients and 1.5% of first-years)
1,454 (34.8% of conditional scholarship recipients and 12.5% of first-years)
1,044 (37.9% of conditional scholarship recipients and 11.2% of first-years)
1,697 (41% of conditional scholarship recipients and 13.7% of first-years)
A number of law schools switched to non-conditional scholarship programs for 2012-13 or will be switching to non-conditional scholarship programs for the 2013-14 academic year. As a result, for the 2013-14 academic year, there will be 131 law schools with conditional scholarship programs, five law schools with non-renewable one-year scholarships, four that only offer need-based scholarships, and 54 law schools with good standing (or guaranteed) scholarships. Of the 194 schools on which I was gathering information, therefore, as of the 2013-14 academic year, 70% will have conditional or one-year scholarship programs (136/194), while nearly 28% will have good standing (or guaranteed) scholarships (54/194), with 2% (4/194) having only need based scholarship assistance. (Note that some law schools with conditional scholarship programs also offer some scholarships on a non-conditional basis and/or offer some need-based assistance.)
Those who might be interested in a more detailed analysis of conditional scholarship programs, may want to look at the draft article I have posted on SSRN – Better Understanding the Scope of Conditional Scholarship Programs in American Law Schools.
[posted by Jerry Organ]
Sunday, June 30, 2013
As noted in Part I of this post, the competitive dynamics among law schools are about to change due to a combination of two factors: (1) the ABA's collection and publication more granular data on school-level employment outcomes, and (2) the decision by U.S. News to make JD Bar Passage Required and JD Advantaged the primary measures for the employed-at-9-months input to its rankngs formula.
The histogram below reveals a near perfect bell curve for this revamped US News
input [click on to enlarge]. This is a huge change from prior years
when schools were all bunched at the 95% level because employment of any
kind was all that mattered. Under the old methodology, any law school that
limited itself to full-time, professional law-related jobs would have
plummeted in the rankings 10 to 50 spots.
Because spring 2013 was the first year with the new methodology, the impact of the change is not well understood. The most stark fact of the new environment is that the full-time, professional law-related jobs are in short supply. Among the class of 2011 (the stats used for the 2013 rankings), this desirable outcome was achieved by only 63.0% of graduates. When we subtract out full-time, long-term law-related professional jobs funded by law schools -- a luxury that only a small number of mostly first-tier law schools can afford -- the total drops to 61.9%.
Digging deeper, some other significant patterns emerge.
The vast majority of law schools feed into the regional labor markets where they are located. In places like California, those markets are saturated.
Among the ABA-accredited law schools in California, 46.5% of the class of 2011 obtained full-time JD Bar Passage Required jobs. The comparable figure for the remaining ABA-accredited law schools was 56.0%. Likewise, there is also a disparity for JD Advantage jobs: 6.2% in California versus 8.3% for schools in all other states. In fact, among the 19 ranked California law schools, only four -- Stanford, UC Berkeley, USC, UCLA -- are above the 63.0% average for full-time, professional law-related jobs.
Based on these data, it should come as no suprise that no law school located in California went up in the 2013 U.S. News rankings. Stanford, USC, and Santa Clara hung onto their ranking, but 11 California law schools dropped, with an average decline of 11 spots. Five other Calfornia schools remained in the unranked fourth-tier category.
In contrast, some of the biggest winners in the methodology change were flagship public law schools that are relatively big fish in smaller regional markets. Students at these schools tend to stay in-state and get JD Bar Passage Required jobs at rates far higher than the 54.9% average for the class of 2011 average.
Below are the top 15 non-national public law schools based on the proportion of FT Bar Passage Required jobs.
Between 2012 and 2013, the average rankings gain for the above schools was +9 spots. Among this group, the only school to go down in the rankings was ASU Law (-3). And that decline was largely due to the fact that ASU reported a 98% employed-at-nine-months figure for the class of 2010--a figure that drew suggestions of aggressive gaming. See Brian Tamanaha, When True Numbers Mislead, Balkanization, April 2, 2012.
The heavier weighting for JD Bar Passage Required jobs also benefits a handful of lower-ranked private law schools that are practice-oriented and tend to feed smaller firms within their regional areas.
- Campbell (71.4% FT bar passage jobs) went from unranked to #126.
- South Texas (64.4% FT bar passage jobs) went from unranked to #144
- St. Mary's (78.3% FT bar passage jobs) went from unranked to #140.
Part-Time Law Schools Dominate JD Advantaged Jobs
JD Advantaged Jobs count the same as JD Bar Passage Required Jobs. But what, exactly, is included in this category? According to the ABA,
A position in this category is one for which the employer sought an individual with a J.D., and perhaps even required a J.D., or for which the J.D. provided a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but which does not itself require bar passage or an active law license or involve practicing law.
See ABA Class of 2012 (definitions). Many professionals enroll in law school on a part-time basis to improve their career prospects. It should be no surprise, then, that schools with part-time programs tend to be the largest producers of graduates with full-time JD Advantage jobs. In many cases, it is the full-time job that the student held during law school -- and presumably retains upon graduation -- that confers the advantage.
Of the top 10 schools based on the percentage of JD Advantage law school jobs, eight had part-time programs and the other two were located in a state capital, which tends to increase the number of opportunities related to government and public policy.
The schools listed above gained an average of 3.5 spots in the rankings, albeit the average is pulled down by the inclusion of Southwestern, which had to weather the brutal California legal market.
It is worth noting that the percentage of JD Advantage jobs is negatively correlated with the percentage of JD Bar Passage Required Jobs (-.33) .The table below summarizes the differences between schools with Part-time versus Full-Time only programs.
The higher percentage of JD Advantage jobs (10.1% versus 6.9%) for schools with part-time programs is unlikely the results of chance, as the differences in means are statistically signficant at p < .001. But what does this inverse relationship mean?
programs tend to be affiliated with lower ranked law schools, which in turn would produce a lower average percentage of JD Bar
Passage Required jobs. Yet, part-time programs are also in larger,
urban locations. Thus, in addition to the continued employment of
part-time students with their current employers, the sheer proximity to
large, specialized regional economies probably increases the proportion
of JD Advantage jobs. Indeed, any school in an large metro area would
be foolish to ignore the human capital needs of non-legal employers, as
knowledge of the law is very helpful in navigating through an ever more
complex, regulated, and interconnected world.
What is the Best Strategy for Maximizing Full-Time, Professional Law-Related Jobs?
Largely through happenstance, the ABA and U.S. News have created an environment where law schools have to ask this basic but very important question. Part-time jobs will no longer cut it. And few law schools have the cash to hire their own grads full-time for a year past graduation -- and if they do, there are probably better uses for the millions of dollars needed annually to prop up a school's ranking.
The new gold standard employment outcome is full-time, long-term professional law-related jobs. The issue of how to maximize this outcome is so pressing and intricate that it may warrant trade-offs in the admissions process, favoring students will lower credentials but more rock-solid employment prospects on the backend at graduation. This is the topic I will take up in Part III.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
Friday, June 28, 2013
NALP recently released the employment outcome data for the class of 2012. The good news is that the absolute number of JD Bar Passage Required jobs went up from the prior year. The bad news is that a significantly larger class of entry-level lawyers were competing for those jobs. The class of 2011 totaled 41,623, versus 44,339 in 2012 (+2,716, or +6.5%). And note, the class of 2013 is likely to be even bigger -- roughly +1.6% based on the size of the entering 1L classes in the fall of 2010 (see ABA enrollment data).
Setting aside the year-over-year flucuations, the trendlines suggest a relatively large and persistent shortfall in the number of full-time, professional law-related jobs. I assembled the graph below from NALP data [click on to enlarge].
[Methodological notes: NALP used the JD-Preferred category until the class of 2011, when NALP and the ABA collaborated on the creation of the JD Advantage category. According to NALP, the jobs in the two categories are "largely the same." See NALP, Detailed Analysis of JD Advantage Jobs (April 2013). The figures for 2012 are estimates of full-time employment calculated from (a) NALP's just released figures for 2012 class size and the percentage breakdowns by job category, and (b) the percentage breakdowns of full-time versus part-time from the prior year, which also relied on the new JD Advantage definition. In short, basic algebra.]
A reasonable expectation of a 3-year, $100,000+ financial commitment is that nine months after graduation, the entry-level lawyer has secured a full-time professional job. See Legal Whiteboard, June 26, 2007. Those outcomes are reflected in the blue-red-green bars above. Since 2007 (the first year that NALP collected data on full-time versus part-time employment), the percentage of jobs fitting these criteria has fallen from 85.0% to 73.9%. So the overall size of the purple bar -- part-time jobs, nonprofessional, unemployment, etc. -- has grown from 15% to 26.1%.
Unfortunately, the pain does not end there. With a limited pool of full-time professional jobs and the number of graduates trending upward, the law of supply and demand kicks in. Consider this arc of median entry-level salaries of employed graduates: $65,748 for class of 2007, $72,000 for 2008, $72,000 for 2009, $63,000 for 2010, $60,000 for 2011, $61,245 for $2008. So, in short, the odds of landing a full-time professional job have gone down, and so has the starting pay. Yet, tuition and student debt continue to edge up. These unsustainable trends have made law schools fair game for criticism by the media and law student bloggers.
That said, a market correction is clearly underway. A considerable number of prospective law students are deciding (rationally) not to apply to law school -- from 98,700 when the class of 2007 enrolled in the fall of 2004 to an estimated 58,424 for the fall of 2013. Likewise, law schools, to the extent they can afford it, are enrolling fewer students. From the high water mark in the fall of 2010 (49,700), law schools only enrolled 41,400 1Ls in the fall of 2012, and the numbers are sure to be even lower this fall. See Jerry Organ's estimates, Legal Whiteboard, May 20, 2013. To weather this storm, law schools are running significant deficits or drawing down their endowments.
So, can we conclude that the market correction will be complete when the relatively small class of 2017 enters the job market four years from now? I certainly think the smaller number of graduates will help. But I would argue that two things have fundamentally changed:
1. Revenues versus credentials. Law schools are struggling with the need to balance their desire to hang onto respectable LSAT/UGPA medians with a need to generate sufficient revenue to cover their operating costs. If a law school favors revenues this year, its US News rankings could drop, affecting its applicant pool in future years. On the other hand, the combination of shrinking 1L classes and lavish scholarships -- a strategy being pursued by dozens of law schools -- is unsustainable over the medium to long term. A decision to enroll fewer students this year is a three-year commitment to lower revenue. If the smaller entering class is repeated next fall, the budget pain doubles. Do it three years running, and the revenue shortfall triples. Many law schools are not trying to outrun the bear; they are trying to outrun other law schools in their regional market. Some law schools may not make it out of this trough.
2. Competition over full-time, professional law-related jobs. If there is one silver lining that has emerged from this troubled period in U.S. legal education, it is the willingness of the ABA to collect and publish more granular employment outcome data at the law school level. In turn, U.S. News has incorporated these data into its rankings formula. Instead of propping up our rankings by hiring our own students or benefiting when they got jobs nine months out working as a retail manager or a cab driver, under the new 2013 U.S. News rankings formula, only full-time, long-term jobs that are JD Bar Passage Required or JD Advantaged are given "full weight."
It is this second point that is going to push change in how law schools do business--we now have an employment outcome in which the ranking payoff is now fully in allignment with what law students want--full-time, professional law-related jobs.
Specifically, the employed-at-nine-months input to the U.S. News rankings formula is currently given 14% weight. According to the U.S. News law school rankings methodology, the magazine is weighting 22 of the 35 employment outcomes collected and published by the ABA. Among these 22 factors, we don't know the internal weighting. What we do know based on the "full weight" given to JD Bar Passage Required and JD Advantage jobs, is that the highest employed-at-nine-month scores will go to law schools with the highest percentages in these two categories. This is a completely new world for law schools -- one that incentivizes what law students care about when they make the decision to enroll.
Part II to follow ...
[Posted by Bill Henderson]
Friday, May 31, 2013
That's right, law students now have an opportunity to add hands-on e-discovery training to their skill set. Surely, a first-of-its-kind program is being offered by one of the 200 ABA-accredited law schools struggling to adapt to a changing legal market, right?
Well, actually, no. It is being offered by Bryan University, which began life in 1940 in Los Angeles as a stenography school for court reporters. It subsequently evolved into Bryan College, which offered associates degrees in various vocational tracks. More recently, it has received accreditation as a university, with a masters degree in applied medical informatics and a cetificate program in e-discovery. Both are offered exclusively online.
The e-discovey certificate program has some interesting features (press release here).
- It's an actual graduate program. Enrollment is limited to law students who have completed a course in civil procedure (so, functionally, 2Ls and 3Ls) or, at most, completed their JD studies in 2013.
- It's real-world relevant. The program is organized around the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), which is a detailed yet evolving set of industry standards that flow from nearly a decade of meetings involving literally hundreds of major and minor players in the litigation industry -- law firms, tech start-ups, Fortune 500 companies, consultants, etc. I have been at an EDRM meeting. Just learning the arcane, technology language of this massive subfield could itself a big value-add for students.
- Students learn how to use tools. The program is an immersion experience in which students will learn how to use high-end software related to predictive coding and machine learning; after that, they move to human review using another industry software suite. This event is supported by several legal vendors, mostly software providers, because they want their tools to become industry standards. Lexis and Westlaw used this same playbook 30 years ago.
- It's compact and efficient. The program meets online in real-time two hours a day, four days per week, for four weeks.
The faculty is comprised of practitioners and technicians in the e-discovery business, not full-time law professors. The tuition is $1,495 (very cheap if measured by contact hours), which can be paid online via credit card. Alas, May 30th was the last day of registration!
Signficance of the Bryan University program
Is the Bryan University e-discovery certificate program evidence of law's slide into vocationalism, or are 200+ ABA-accredited law schools missing the boat on the future of law? This may frame a provocative debate among academics, but it gets us quickly onto the wrong track.
Let's separate changes in the legal economy from debates over academic identity, which tend to arouse our emotions. In other words, let's respond to these circumstances like level-headed lawyers and acknowledge the substantial evidence that the world of lawyering is changing in dramatic ways. If this is true, by extension significant changes to legal education are likely on their way.
If we focus on facts, Exhibit #1 has to be access to justice. Resolution of disputes through state and federal courts --the paradigmatic work of lawyers -- has become prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of U.S. citizens. Further, it is now getting a too rich even for major corporations. Part of the problem is proliferation of electronically stored information (ESI). Finding and analyzing the law, it turns out, is the easy part. We teach that in law school. But in this permanently digital world, facts never get lost. Rather, they accumulate. This creates large problems for litigants.
Instead of redesigning our judical system to deal with this challenge -- something a conservative legal profession is loath to do without a decade or two of deliberation -- we are now witnessing the rise of a massive industry of legal vendors trying to make electronic discovery more efficient.
Exhibit #2 in our factfinding journey is that a huge proportion of these new legal vendors are owned and controlled by nonlawyers. See Henderson, Losing the Law Business. It turns out that the MR 5.4 ban on fee-splitting is, to a large extent, not much of a barrier at all. Virtually everything up until the courthouse door or the client-counseling moment can be disaggregated and turned into a process or product delivered by a nonlawyer vendor adept at technology and systems engineering. Because there is so much money to be made by the application of technology and process to legal problems, the nonlawyer genie is not going back into the bottle. It is time to accept that fact.
Below is a chart I use in a lot of presentations to law schools and bar associations.
The point of this chart is very simple. A legal services industry has arisen around the traditional legal profession. Now, increasingly, the word "service" is falling out because products and mechanized processes are taking their place, driving up quality, and driving down cost and cycle time. Society wins. Lawyers adapt.
So, at a practical level, what does all of this mean?
Let's start with the good news. Law is not going away. In a highly interconnected, complex globalized world, law is actually becoming more important.
But here is the realistic inner lining. Law is also suffering from a productivity imperative. The average citizen -- including the typical lawyer -- can't afford to engage the services of an artisan lawyer. And large firms filled with high-priced artisan lawyers are becoming a less attractive option for even large corporations. They want better, faster, and cheaper legal solutions.
So, for law professors anyway, here is the bad news: Training artisan lawyers -- what U.S. law schools do -- is indeed a mature industry. The U.S. economy can't fully absorp 45,000 law graduates per year, at least not doing traditional artisan-type legal work. So, if we want reliable employer demand for our graduates, some retooling needs to take place. Is the retooling process hard and complicated? Absolutely. Does this type of change occur in other industries? Yes, as reliably as the sun rising in the east. Now is our turn.
How do we retool?
The most difficult hurdle is just accepting the need to change. It's purely an emotional obstacle. The cheese has been moved. It's gone. It will not reappear. We need to find new cheese. Not familar with the reference? See Who Moved my Cheese.
The next step is just showing up to industry events and accepting the fact that we are not the smartest person in the room, at least when it comes to intersection of technology, process design, project management, knowledge management, big data analytics, machine learning, and modern law practice, etc. Instead, it is time to just soak and poke. Practically speaking, this means listening to others and trying to decipher patterns that simplify and unify what we are observing.
Third, with the help of some adjuncts we deputize along the way (both lawyers and nonlawyers), we design and offer some new courses that capture these new realities. Fumbling through a very crude version of this methodology, I taught project management back in 2010. Not only was it a lot of fun, I learned new skills, both as a problem solver and as a teacher, made dozens of industry connections that opened doors for my students, and obtained a more realistic view of the legal profession. In short, it changed my life -- for the better.
Fourth, a subset of the legal academy needs to really dive into the topic of institutional design. The rise of the e-discovery business is entirely a artifact of how our legal system is structured. Perhaps it is time to think about better ways to resolve disputes and facilitate transactions. See, e.g., Disputes in the credit care industry. To me, law schools are the exact right places to think about, and wrestle with, these critically important issues. These are mountains just waiting to be climbed by the next iteration of law schools and law professors.
Fifth, with some smaller victories under our belts, we need to collaborate with colleagues to begin the messy process of organizing our new insights into a coherent curriculum that produces graduates with the most valuable skills sets in the shortest supply. With a world ramping up in complexity, I doubt these will be vocational skills. That said, we are probably a decade or two away from a more settled law school curriculum. But we will get there, and when we do, we will be incredibly proud of what we have accomplished.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
Monday, May 20, 2013
This week's National Law Journal has a Special Report section on the challenges facing law schools. Karen Sloan has several stories on how law schools are finding alternative sources of revenues beyond tuition dollars for JD degrees (masters's degrees for nonlawyers, online LLMs, and lawyer executive education).
I contributed an essay entitled "The Calculus of University Presidents." Although the essay is posed as the letter I would write to a university president seeking advice on how to handle a significant, unexpected shortfall in law school revenues, the intended audience is lawyers and legal educators seeking to get a handle on the brutal economics that are now threatening the survival of a large swath of law schools.
From the perspective of many, it would be nice if things would go back to the way they used to be. But that is not going to happen. Good lawyers understand that we gain no long-term advantage from hiding from these facts. Instead, we need to confront them honestly and proactively.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
Friday, April 26, 2013
Earlier this week, I participated in the ABA Taskforce on the Future of Legal Education (see NLJ coverage here). Ordinarily when I am part of a deliberative meeting of a regulatory or accrediting body, I don't write about it, as it would be a breach of decorum and chill a candid exchange of views, at least prospectively. But this event was different -- it was webcast live and internet archived, and thus a public meeting. See ABA website.
These programs are laudable and, from an institutional perspective, necessary. But will an ABA taskforce, or AALS, LSAC, or some other industry group taskforce produce substantial change? History suggests that the answer is no and that, instead, meaningful change will come from the bottom up rather than the top down. Change will occur at the bottom from either the desire to survive or the opportunity to do something great. Other similarly situated institutions that feel less urgency or inspiration will eventually perish. It is just that simple
The accreditation system we have created is an anchronism. But if we think the ABA Standards are holding back the forces of innovation in legal education, we are kidding ourselves. Any law school or law professor who wants a better way can have one -- we are all like Dorothy and her red slippers in the Wizard of Oz: we have had the power all along.
To illustrate this point, I am going to share some personal history that I rarely discuss among my academic colleagues because, well, it would never come up in the course of ordinary conversation. Before I went to law school at age 35, I was a firefighter-paramedic for nine years. For the last five, I served as our Local's union president. To this day, I proudly pay union days so I can stay retired-active.
When I look at the ABA Accreditation Standards, I am reminded of Ohio Revised Code 4117, which is the state's collective bargaining law for public employees. For police and fire, unlike teachers, we had binding interest arbitration for collective bargaining. What does this mean? Basically, if we were unhappy with the offer made by the city -- and we always were -- we took our case to a state-mandated arbitrator, compared our wages and working conditions to firefighters who were getting a better deal (the city would do the opposite), and we got a decent wage & benefits increase, every time. It was not if we would get a raise, but how much. The teachers, in contrast, had to go on strike. The effect of this law was not lost on me. My sister was a teacher in an adjacent city, and over time I made a lot more than her.
This law was in place because those who came before me organized themselves into an interest group, lobbied, and got a favorable law put on the books to benefit them. My fire chief, Joe Sweeney, was one of those elders -- he would point to the union charter posted in the hallway to remind me that he was one of original signatories. By forming a union and working for over ten years to pass 4117, Joe and others ended the era of "collective begging." The resulting union wages enabled him to raise six kids and enjoy a decent pension. And in exchange for that, Chief Sweeney, when he was a captain and later as a chief, demanded, absolutely demanded, that we comport ourselves as public servants.
In truth, the public-private deal struck by 4117 only advanced the public interest when we had guys like Joe Sweeney who lived and breathed a sense of fairness. Joe, just through how he led this life, kept several dozen firefighters honest and focused. As the old guard retired, and our pay kept getting ratcheted up, it became harder to educate the new guys about how this great job came to be. Many believed they "earned" their positions through merit because, after all, they rose to the top of a competitive hiring process. So, through the way we behaved, the public interest case for 4117 was made marginally weaker.
I see the the same dilemma when I review the ABA Accreditation standards. For example, take a look a Standard 405, which pertains to "Professional Environment."
(a) A law school shall establish and maintain conditions adequate to attract and retain a competent faculty.
(b) A law school shall have an established and announced policy with respect to academic freedom and tenure ...
(c) A law school shall afford to full-time clinical faculty members a form of security of position reasonably similar to tenure ...
(d) A law school shall afford legal writing teachers such security of position and other rights and privileges of faculty membership ...
These provisions were the result of the same type of collective action that produced 4117. And their purpose, just like 4117, is to lock-in privilege. We academics can offer a plausible justification for this privilege -- for example, without 405(b), writing this essay could cost me my job. But the fact is we need to justify that privilege through our behavior; otherwise, just like now, we become vulnerable.
At the behest of the ABA Task Force, the formal rules governing legal education may or may not change. But that is largely irrelevant to what the public, including prospective students, perceive as the value of legal education. And that value is, in the aggregate, quite low.
Reform in legal education is not a light switch. It is mindset that affects how we spend our time and who we spend it with. If we want reform, well, let's work on it and actually get something done that will inspire others. Eventually it will take hold and take off, with or without changes to the ABA governing standards.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Last month, The National Jurist published an article I wrote that was a tribute to Leonard ("Len") Fromm, Dean of Students at Indiana Law from 1982 to 2012. Len passed away in February. The editors at The National Jurist supplied the official title, which I thought was spot on: "What Every Law Student Needs to Excel as an Attorney: Introducing the Fromm Six." [original PDF] I am republishing the essay here because I want as many people as possible to know the story and contribution of this truly great man. [posted by Bill Henderson]
Introducing the Fromm Six, National Jurist (March 2013).
One of the greatest people in legal education that you have never heard of is a man named Leonard Fromm. Fromm served as Dean of Students at Indiana University Maurer School of Law from 1982 to 2012. On February 2, 2013, Dean Fromm passed away after a relatively short battle with cancer.
I want to discuss an innovation that Dean Fromm contributed to legal education—a contribution that, I predict, will only grow over time. This innovation is a competency model for law students called the Fromm Six. But first, let me supply the essential background.
After several years in counseling and adult education, Dean Fromm joined the law school in 1982 to preside over matters of student affairs. Over the course of three decades he quietly became the heart and soul of the Maurer School of Law. Dean Fromm was typically the first person that new students met during orientation—the law school administrator who completed character and fitness applications for state bar authorities and the voice that called out their names at commencement (with an amazing, booming tenor). During the three years in between, Dean Fromm counseled students through virtually every human problem imaginable. His most difficult work was done in his office with his door closed and all his electronic devices turned off. It was private work that was not likely to produce much fanfare.
During his tenure at Indiana Law, Dean Fromm’s title was expanded to include Alumni Affairs. The change did not expand his duties in any significant way—Len was already working 70 hours a week in a job he loved. Rather, the change reflected the fact that Indiana Law alumni associated (and often credited) Dean Fromm with the deepest and most abiding lessons of law school—overcoming self-doubt; confronting self-destructive behavior; recognizing the importance of relationships; finding the courage to try something again after disappointing failure; or discovering the ability to see the world through the eyes of one’s adversary or opponent.
One of the cumulative benefits of Dean Fromm’s job was the ability to track the full arc of lawyers’ careers, from the tentative awkwardness of the 1L year, to involvement in the school’s extracurricular events and social scene, to coping strategies for students not at the top of their class, and the myriad, unexpected turns in our graduates’ professional careers. During his tenure he interacted with nearly 6,000 students and stayed in contact with a staggering number of them after graduation. Invariably, he saw the connection between law school and a student’s subsequent success and happiness later in life (noting, in his wise way, that professional success and happiness are not necessarily the same thing).
In 2008, I started collaborating with Len on a project to construct a law school competency model. Our first iteration was a list of 23 success factors which we constructed with the help of industrial & organizational (IO) psychologists. Although valid as a matter of social science, the list was too long and complex to gain traction with students. In 2010, the faculty who taught Indiana Law’s 1L Legal Professions class got together and reduced the list of competencies to 15. Once again, we found it was too long and complex to execute in the classroom.
During the summer of 2011, as we were debriefing the challenges of another year in our competency-based 1L Legal Professions course, Dean Fromm said, “I have an idea.” A short time later, he circulated a list of six competencies that were appropriate to 1Ls and foundational to their future growth as professionals. Finally (or At last), we now had a working tool! Moreover, none of the professors teaching the Legal Professions course, including me, wanted to revise a single word—a veritable miracle in legal academia.
Upon reviewing the list I kidded Len that the new IU competency model should be called “The Fromm Six”, which was a play on the famous “Big Five” personality model that forms the bedrock of scientific personality testing. (Len had a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology as well as a law degree.) He just laughed. But the “Fromm Six” had a lot of resonance with the rest of us so the label stuck.
In May 2012, Dean Fromm retired from his position as Dean of Students and Alumni Affairs. At age 70 he was preparing to join us in teaching the 1L Legal Professions course. This was to be in addition to his usual Negotiations class, where he was a master. Instead, within a few weeks of retirement, Len was diagnosed with a virulent cancer that never let go.
None of us can make sense of Len’s death as it abruptly ended
a life of complete, unselfish service to a large community of students, faculty
and graduates. But, as best I can, I am
inclined to pay tribute to his life. And
to my mind, there is no greater tribute than to publish and publicize the Fromm
Six so that another generation of lawyers can benefit from his wisdom, grace and
Self-Awareness – Having a highly developed sense of self. Being self‐aware means knowing your values, goals, likes, dislikes, needs, drives, strengths and weaknesses, and their effect on your behavior. Possessing this competence means knowing accurately which emotions you are feeling and how to manage them toward effective performance and a healthy balance in your life. If self‐aware, you also will have a sense of perspective about yourself, seeking and learning from feedback and constructive criticism from others.
Active Listening – The ability to fully comprehend information presented by others through careful monitoring of words spoken, voice inflections, para‐linguistic statements, and non‐verbal cues. Although that seems obvious , the number of lawyers and law students who are poor listeners suggests the need for better development of this skill. It requires intense concentration and discipline. Smart technology devices have developed a very quick mode of “listening” to others. Preoccupation with those devices makes it very challenging to give proper weight and attention to face‐to‐face interactions. Exhibiting weak listening skills with your colleagues/classmates/clients might also mean that they will not get to the point of telling you what they really want to say. Thus, you miss the whole import of what the message was to be.
Questioning – The art and skill of knowing when and how to ask for information. Questions can be of various types, each type having different goals. Inquiries can be broad or narrow, non‐leading to leading. They can follow a direct funnel or an inverted funnel approach. A questioner can probe to follow up primary questions and to remedy inadequate responses. Probes can range from encouraging more discussion, to asking for elaboration on a point, to even being silent. Developing this skill also requires controlling one’s own need to talk and control the conversation.
Empathy– Sensing and perceiving what others are feeling, being able to see their perspective, and cultivating a rapport and connection. To do the latter effectively, you must communicate that understanding back to the other person by articulating accurately their feelings. They then will know that you have listened accurately, that you understand, and that you care. Basic trust and respect can then ensue.
Communicating/Presenting –The ability to assertively present compelling arguments respectfully and sell one’s ideas to others. It also means knowing how to speak clearly and with a style that promotes accurate and complete listening. As a professional, communicating means persuading and influencing effectively in a situation without damaging the potential relationship. Being able to express strong feelings and emotions appropriately in a manner that does not derail the communication is also important.
Resilience –The ability to deal with difficult situations calmly and cope effectively with stress; to be capable of bouncing back from or adjusting to challenges and change; to be able to learn from your failures, rejections, feedback and criticism, as well as disappointments beyond your control. Being resilient and stress hardy also implies an optimistic and positive outlook, one that enables you to absorb the impact of the event, recover within a reasonable amount of time, and to incorporate relevant lessons from the event.
Thursday, April 4, 2013
The revolution is here. It is going to happen. For a detailed analysis of the rise of what I call "Susskind's World" and the new legal entrepenuers, see Part II.C of The Blueprint for Change.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
The legal industry is changing in ways that very few lawyers understand. I recently tried to explain these changes to a savvy nonlawyer, non-American audience through an essay I published in the Cayman Financial Review, entitled, "Losing the Law Business" (original PDF). I wanted to share this analysis first with an audience that was, frankly, not emotionally or financially wedded to the outcome--hence, they could be objective. Now I want to gauge the U.S. lawyer reaction, so I am republishing the essay here on The Legal Whiteboard.
Losing the Law Business, Cayman Financial Review (Jan. 2013)
by William D. Henderson
If you are not a lawyer, you may find this next sentence very good news. We are entering a period in human history in which we are going to need fewer lawyers, at least the traditionally trained variety. The world is becoming more interconnected, regulated and complex. Although regulation and complexity have historically been very good for the lawyer business, something very fundamental is changing. Clients are increasingly struggling to pay the bills of artisan lawyers who prefer to craft individual, customized solutions for each transaction and each dispute.
In essence, law is facing a productivity imperative. To cope with globalization, the world needs better, faster, and cheaper legal output. The artisan trained lawyer just can’t keep up. To address the productivity imperative – or, more accurately, to turn a profit from this business opportunity—a new generation of legal entrepreneurs has emerged.
Lawyers continue to have a lock on advocacy work and client counseling on legal matters. But an enormous amount of work that leads up to the courthouse door, or the client counseling moment, is increasingly being “disaggregated” into a series of tasks that does not need to be performed by lawyers. Indeed, it may be best performed by computer algorithms. Further, the entire process is amenable to continuous improvement, driving up quality and driving down costs. This is a job that is likely more suitable for a systems engineer, albeit one with legal expertise, than a traditionally trained lawyer.
Although this change may sound radical, it is actually the logical next step in an evolutionary progression that began in the early 20th century as the practicing bar transitioned from generalist solo practitioners to specialized lawyers working together within law firms. Now, as clients search out ways to stretch their legal budgets, specialization is losing market share to process-driven solutions, akin to how Henry Ford’s assembly line methods supplanted craft production.
To illustrate this progression, consider the U.S. legal market at the beginning of the post-War period. At that time, 61% of all lawyers worked as solo practitioners. Not surprisingly, incomes were low. In 1948, the average lawyer in private practice made $5,200 per year, which was several hundred dollars less than his government lawyer counterpart. There were private practice lawyers, however, who defied this trend. Less than 2% of U.S. lawyers worked as partners in law firms of nine partners or more, but these “large” firm lawyers made, on average, five times more than their solo practitioner peers.
Why so much more? Because the world was becoming more regulated and complex. And sophisticated, specialized lawyers with deep technical expertise were in short supply. By combining into a firm, lawyers could specialize in new or existing areas of law, handle bigger and more complex matters, and otherwise coordinate their efforts to better serve clients. Indeed, the most successful large law firms, such as the New York City firm of Cravath Swaine & Moore, organized themselves so as to optimize the training of junior lawyers in both substantive law and the ability to supervise and delegate (the “Cravath system”). Fittingly, during the 1930s, the press dubbed these firms “law factories.” The best junior lawyers eventually became partner; the rest obtained the benefit of excellent experience and training, thus obtaining jobs with clients or partnerships with other law firms.
For the next several decades, firms with significant business clients and a partner-associate training model tended to prosper. As a measure of longevity of the specialist model, among the largest 100 law firms in the U.S. as measured by gross revenues (the AmLaw 100), the average name partner was born in 1895 and died in 1964 – yet the growth has marched on for another half century. The period of greatest financial success has occurred during the last three decades. Between 1978 and 2003, total U.S. legal expenses as a percentage of GDP increased from .4% to 1.8%. From this growing pie, large firm lawyers where getting the biggest slice. By the mid-2000s, the profit share of the average partner in an Am Law 100 firm was over $1 million per year.
One obvious drag on the legal industry’s reluctance to embrace innovation is the financial success enjoyed under the old model. It is hard to convince a group of millionaires that their business model is broken. A second drag is insularity. The U.S./U.K system of lawyering is premised on the idea of independence. In the U.S., ethics rules prohibit lawyers from splitting fees with nonlawyers. Thus, only lawyers have an equity interest in law firms. In the U.K. and Australia, in contrast, the ban on fee-splitting has been significantly relaxed, enabling the public listing of law firms and the entry of name-brand companies, such as Tesco (a supermarket retailer), into the consumer legal business.
Ironically, the insularity of the U.S. legal market may have created a more attractive target for capitalists. Among corporate clients, the combination of high law firm profits and low innovation has created discontent among C-suite executives. They ask their general counsel, “why are legal expenses going up faster than other departments? What value are we getting for these higher fees?” The general counsel has no persuasive reply.
Perhaps the best example of new entrepreneurs serving corporate clients is the large number of vendors working in eDiscovery and document review. The explosion in digital data over the last 10 to 15 years has made it untenable to continue using expensive law firm associates for an exhaustive manual review.
Initially the work went to registry services, which assembled large crews of temporary low-wage “contract” lawyers for large document review projects. After building a sufficient data infrastructure and security controls, the work flow has gradually expanded to legal process outsourcers (LPOs) in places like India, where a fraction of the wages paid to U.S. contract attorneys could attract highly motivated and able Indian lawyers. Having achieved sufficient success and scale, the best LPOs are now turning to process engineering, combining this highly motivated and able labor with superior technology and workflow design.
More recently, new vendors have emerged who specialize in “predictive coding.” In a case that considered acceptable methods of conducting electronic discovery, a federal judge in New York City reviewed studies comparing the cost and accuracy of computer-based machine algorithms (predictive coding) with manual human review. Finding that the predictive coding was at least as accurate as manual methods and reduced the number of documents for human review by a factor of 50, the judge ruled that predictive coding was judicially reasonable in many cases involving large numbers of documents.
Although many large U.S. law firms may perceive document review as “commodity” legal work not worthy of their efforts, the new legal vendors getting into this space are remarkably well capitalized. For example, one of the larger suppliers of contract attorneys is Robert Half, which has 26 locations through the U.S. and Canada. Its corporate parent, Robert Half International, is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (RHI). Another company in the contract attorney space is Special Counsel, which has 36 U.S. offices. Special Counsel is a subsidiary of Adecco Group, which is listed on the SIX Swiss Stock Exchange (ADEN).
In the LPO space, Pangea3, which opened in 2004 with $1.5 million in venture capital, was sold in 2010 to Thomson Reuters (NYSE symbol TRI) for an amount reported to be in the $35M to $40M range. [ed: I later learned from a highly reliable source that the true price was just under $100M.] The original management team was kept intact, as the company has been growing between 40% and 60% every year since its founding. The company now employs over 850 lawyers, mostly in India. Because of its emphasis on process improvement, Pangea3 and other high-end LPOs are obtaining a competitive advantage beyond mere wages. Thus, LPOs have become a much more attractive option for Indian law graduates. Another competitor is Huron Consulting Group (NASDAQ symbol HURN), which recently announced a new document review facility in Gurgeon (a booming suburb of Delhi), bringing its total global document review workforce to 1,500 in 17 offices worldwide. Since 2007, Huron Consulting Group’s annual revenues have nearly doubled, growing from $315 million to $606 million.
The major players in the predictive coding space are also well capitalized. One of the leaders is Recommind, a privately held company with $15 million in revenues in 2011 and approximately 100 employees in facilities in California, London, Germany and Australia. Similarly, Kroll Ontrack, which started in the hard disk recovery business nearly 30 years ago, has information management services that include predictive coding as part of its broader eDiscovery services. Kroll Ontrack is owned by Kroll, Inc., which was recently acquired by Altegrity, an information conglomerate owned by Providence Equity Partners. Providence Equity is a global private equity firm with over $27 billion under management.
Since 2008, revenues in large U.S.-based law firms have been relatively flat. A recent article in Managing Partner magazine acknowledged that law firms are losing market share to the LPOs –which broadly includes all the companies mentioned above—as general counsel are increasingly contracting with LPOs directly. The savings are perceived to be in the 50% range with no diminution in quality. According to the article, the LPO business is estimated to be a $1 billion per year industry that will double in size over the next two to three years.Unlike traditional lawyers, the competitive advantage enjoyed by these new entrants is that they have learned how to learn. If law is like other industries, these companies will move up the value chain and find new ways to satisfy the needs of large corporate legal departments. Law is not just for lawyers anymore. This genie is permanently out of its bottle.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I was at the ReInvent Law Silicon Valley event last week. Following up on Jerry's thorough remarks, I can honestly say it was unlike any legal education and lawyer conference I have ever attended (the only thing close is Law Without Walls). There is a new guard in the legal academy taking shape, and it is led -- truly led -- by Dan Katz and Renee Knake at Michigan State.
Admittedly, Dan and Renee lean heavily toward my bias. Most of us law professors talk. Dan and Renee, in contrast, are doers. Shortly after becoming assistant professors, they each moved quickly from ideas to action to actually having the audacity to attempt to build new and relevant institutions. Moreover, they both did it untenured--Dan is only in his second year of teaching and Renee just cleared the tenure hurdle earlier this year. They did all of this without a net. To my mind, they are winning the "Game of Life." If other junior faculty follow their example, the legal academy is going to truly change. And right now, that is what we need.
One of my favorite Paul Lippe quotes is this, "In hindsight, the new solutions are all going to look obvious." ReInvent Law was 40 speakers tied together by a common interest in experimentation. Were all the ideas good? If history is any guide, and the criteria is moving from concept to implementation to financial and institutional sustainability, the answer is surely no. But it was invigorating to be in a room of doers who are all willing to risk failure. That is the courage and leadership we need right now. To me, it looked obvious that we need a place like ReInvent Law where insurgent ideas can be expressed with enthusiasm, even if only a handful or fewer will transform the legal landscape.
I was fortunate to be one of the presenters. Dan Katz was kind enough to take my picture when I gave my Ted-style talk (all the talks were Ted-style or "Ignite"). If you zoom-in on me, I look ridiculous. I am no showman. But you have to admit that the lighting is pretty spectacular. The green screen, by the way, is the running twitter feed, an idea that I can assure you was not stolen from the ABA or the AALS.
Amidst all these "revolutionary" ideas, I think my presentation was probably the most conservative. My central claim is that 100 years ago, as the nation struggled to find enough specialized lawyers to deal with the rise of the industrial and administrative state, some brilliant lawyers in cities throughout the U.S. created a "clockworks" approach to lawyer development. These clockworks filled the enormous skills and knowledge gap. Firms like Cravath, Swaine & Moore, through their "Cravath System," finished what legal educators started. (I use the Cravath System as my exemplar because its elegant business logic was written out so meticulously in the firm's 3-volume history.)
The whole purpose of the clockworks was to create a "better lawyer faster." This is a quote from volume II. The company I co-founded, Lawyer Metrics, incorporated it into our trademark -- the value promise is that compelling. See the slides below.
Here is the Slideshare description:
The original Cravath System circa 1920 demonstrated the power of a "clockworks" approach to lawyer development. The system was a meticulously designed and mechanized way to create specialized lawyers who could service the needs of America's rapidly growing industrial and financial enterprises -- lawyers who were in perennial short supply because the requisite skill set could only be learned by doing. The System endured for a century because it solved the specialized lawyer shortage by making every stakeholder better off -- junior lawyers (received training), partner-owners (large, stable profits), and clients (world class service and value).
Today's legal employers and legal educators would benefit by revisiting this system's powerful business logic. The clockworks approach to lawyer development still works. The only difference is that the specifications for a great lawyer have changed. Like the original Cravath System, a new clockworks would create a "better lawyer faster."
[posted by Bill Henderson]
March 13, 2013 in Current events, Data on legal education, Data on the profession, Fun and Learning in the classroom, Innovations in law, Law Firms, Legal Departments, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sunday, March 10, 2013
I had the privilege of attending ReInvent Law—Silicon Valley – on Friday, March 8. Special kudos go to Professors Renee Knake and Daniel Martin Katz from the Michigan State University College of Law and to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation for sponsoring the event and bringing together a significant number of thought leaders who are engaged in thinking about how to use technology to improve the access to and the provision of legal services in the United States and globally.
There were too many presentations to try to summarize everything that was shared during the day. Nonetheless, there were a few themes that showed up throughout the course of the day that merit attention as we think about where the market for legal services might be headed.
First, several people made presentations focused on the increasing importance of data analytics, knowledge management and process management. These included Josh Becker of Lex Machina (discussing generating economic value from analyzing large volumes of patent litigation data), Kingsley Martin, of KMStandards and Sol Irvine of Yuson & Irvine (both discussing knowledge management relating to contract language to develop more efficient processes for drafting contracts), Karnig Kerkorian and Rudy Minasian of Velawsity (discussing process management tools to help solo practitioners by more efficient), and Sean McGrath of Propylon (discussing temporal data management tools that allow searchers to identity the effective language of regulations or statutes at a specific time) to name just a few.
Second, several people emphasized the need for broader access to legal services at affordable prices and discussed the use of process management and alternative structures to better meet the need for legal services for middle class people and small business owners. These included Stephanie Kimbro of Burton Law (encouraging unbundling of legal services and greater participation in branded networks), Chas Rampenthal of LegalZoom (imagining what legal services might look like if a major retailer decided to offer legal services), Raj Abhyanker of LegalForce (discussing process management and data management as key to growth of Trademarkia (predecessor to LegalForce)) and Charley Moore of RocketLawyer (discussing the needs of small business owners to have more affordable guidance regarding how to deal with regulatory structures and legal problems).
Third, related to the access question, there was significant discussion of the constraints of Rule 5.4 and the revolution taking place in the United Kingdom following the authorization of Alternative Business Structures for providing legal services. Presenters discussing the evolving legal services market in the United Kingdom included Ajaz Ahmed of Legal365.com (discussing a legal services market ripe for disruption from businesses focused on client service) and Andy Dawes of Riverview Law (discussing the growth of its fixed fee model of providing services to corporate clients).
In addition, our own Bill Henderson made a presentation on the training model that might be necessary to better prepare lawyers to be effective in the new normal, with greater emphasis on data analytics, knowledge management and process management in addition to traditional legal knowledge and relationship skills.
One of the most thought provoking presentations for me was the presentation by Colin Rule of Modria regarding the growth of Online Dispute Revolution. Modria is an outgrowth of the dispute resolution components of EBay and PayPal where 60 million disputes have been resolved in an “extrajudicial” context, with many being resolved only through use of software (without the intervention of other humans). This prompted me to realize that if one reconceptualizes the access to legal services issue as an access to justice issue, there may be a variety of more efficient ways to offer people access to justice that might completely bypass the current legal system.
There was much to think about regarding a legal services market that is facing the reality of disruptive innovation. What the conference highlighted for me is that change is happening and that there are a number of very bright, very thoughtful people who are trying to invent the future by taking advantage of data and technology to find better, more efficient, more affordable ways to provide legal services to a broader array of clients. Not all of the innovators in attendance at the conference are going to have an economically viable model, but some of them will, and that will mean some of them will be winners, and some of those who continue to do things the traditional way are going to be losers.
[posted by Jerry Organ]
Sunday, February 17, 2013
On March 8, 2013 - The ReInventLaw Laboratory - Founded by Daniel Katz and Renee Knake from Michigan State will host ReInventLaw Silicon Valley 2013 @ The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.
Topics to be covered include:
LegalTechStartUp, Lawyer Regulation, Quantitative Legal Prediction, Legal Supply Chain, Project Management, Technology Aided Access to Justice, Design, 3D-Printing, Driverless Cars, Business of Law, Legal Education, Legal Information Engineering, New Business Models for Law, Lean Lawyering, Augmented Reality, Legal Process Outsourcing, Big Data, New Markets for Law, Virtual Law Practice, E-Discovery, Information Visualization, E-Discovery, Legal Entrepreneurship, Legal Automation … and much more.
What do I need to know?
- At all price points, the legal services market is rapidly changing and this disruption represents peril & possibility. This meeting is about the possibility ... about some of the game changers who are already building the future of this industry.
- This is a 1 day event featuring 40 speakers in a high energy format with specific emphasis on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
- It will highlight the new and growing portion of the legal services industry. It will not be boring.
- For more on our lab and related events please see: http://reinventlaw.com/
How Much Does it Cost?
This event is generously sponsored in part by the Ewing M. Kauffman Foundation, Michigan State University College of Law and the ReInvent Law Laboratory.
Thus, tickets are FREE but limited.
There will only be 400 tickets for this free event. Many of them are already taken and when they are gone, they are gone. Thus, if you or your friends/colleagues/students would be interested in attending -please sign up today.
Final Thoughts …
As I mentioned to Bill Henderson the other day … the old internet adage applies with equal vigor in the legal services industry "the future is here … it is just not evenly distributed."
Come join the future already in progress at #ReInventLaw Silicon Valley March 8th, 2013 (and at our other free public events in London and New York later in 2013).
February 17, 2013 in Current events, Fun and Learning in the classroom, Important research, Innovations in law, Innovations in legal education, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)