Thursday, April 26, 2012

The future in law ain't what it used to be

Today’s edition of The New York Times includes a Q&A with Michael H. Trotter, “a partner at Taylor English Duma in Atlanta who, in addition to a five-decade career as a corporate lawyer, has written two books about the economics and management of law firms.” Among other things, he addresses the “grim environment” at Big Huge & Gargantuan LLP:

Law firms expect associates to put in 1,800 to 2,000 billable hours, and at some firms it’s up to 2,500. That’s 50 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. And that’s just the billable time. Every lawyer has to make an investment every day of time that’s not billable. You have to study and learn, improve your skills, administer to your practice. If you’re working 50 hours a week of billable time, you’re probably working 65 to 70 hours of total time. So the burden is tremendous. Now, with the Internet and cellphones, you’re in demand possibly every hour of every day of every week.

He also answers a question about whether he would advise his grandchildren to go to law school:

I would not. It’s extraordinarily competitive. We are turning out 45,000 or so law school graduates a year. The quality is very high, and there aren’t jobs for them. Roughly half the lawyers in the country are sole practitioners. Seventy percent practice in firms with fewer than 20 lawyers, and for the most part they do not have the very high levels of income enjoyed by the major firms. Making a go requires three years of your life and $150,000 for a legal education. If you get a job at an elite firm, the odds of becoming a partner are probably less than 10 percent. So, it’s a very rough row to hoe, and much of the work that’s done is not challenging and interesting work.

Peter Lattman, “Dewey & LeBoeuf Crisis Mirrors Legal Industry’s Woes,” N.Y. Times, April 26, 2012, p. B7 (national edition).


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