At this juncture post-Dewey and pre-apocalypse, we at Hanover Legal thought it may be useful to offer our view as to the current state of the legal market and our prognosis through Doomsday.
We have long been warning that the legal market will get significantly worse before it gets substantially better. While the United States’ precarious economy remains the envy of most of the rest of the world, American attorneys are eminently aware that deal flow is slowing and the need for lawyers diminishing. Now more than ever legal talent is selling for pennies on the dollar as the brain-drain that is the business of law schools shamelessly accepts increasing numbers of youngsters knowing that their graduates are likely to finish their respective three year curricula saddled with debt but no viable employment opportunity, and over-inflated and ill-managed law firms burst in succession glutting our society with even more desperate lawyers. We remind our readers that Dewey is only the most recent of a line of fallen giants over the past few years; most of us still remember Howrey, Heller Ehrman, Thelen, Thacher Proffitt, Wolf Block, McKee Nelson and Brobeck.
That in mind, our consultants routinely advise those contemplating a career in law to look elsewhere lest they find themselves one day enlisted in the army of those condemned to check boxes in crowded rooms for eight to twelve hours at a time on mind numbing bottom of the barrel multi-million page document reviews. Please, we plead, teach, start a business, become a fitness guru, travel, write a book – just avoid law school. The last thing we need is another clown like Jacob Oresky inundating our television sets and subways with personal injury ads. To focus on one modest positive, we thank the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York for their good work in decriminalizing Milberg, whose post-plea bargain iteration appears to understand the wisdom of not yelling in everyone’s ear.
The hope for BigLaw are the firms that do the right thing, offering top-notch legal services at more affordable rates in cultures that encourage healthy work-life balance and expect fewer billable hours and lower revenue per partner. Sadly, such models remain few and far between while industry leaders insist on hailing the notoriously flawed and misleading American Lawyer ranking charts as the hall of fame to which their minions should aspire.
We write these words as Hurricane Sandy rages. May her winds soon subside and with them the hubris that degrades the honorable practice of law.