The Musings of Gary M. Zeiss

Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Have the Four Horsemen of the Lawpocalypse arrived? It’s starting to look possible, at least for many that we’ve considered biglaw over the past few years…

1) Pestilence – given a crown and spreading disease wherever it goes. How about the AmLaw 100? The struggle to stay at the very top of that ridiculous list has spread disease throughout the legal profession.

2) War – well, perhaps not “war” per se, but certainly an attempt by firms to capture the princes and princesses of other firms to bolster their own royal families.

3) Famine – associates? Non-equity partners? De-equitized partners? Not a whole lot to eat there.

4) Death – Thelen, Heller Ehrman, Morgan Finnegan – who’s next?

Certainly, there will be a couple of these behemoths left at the end – but it could very well look like an accounting practice, where we went from the Big 8 to the Big 5 to the Big 2 (is the Big One next?).

Are we looking at Lawpocalypse Now? Time will tell…

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The End of the Large Law Firm

I think we’re seeing the beginning (or the middle) of the end of the large law firm now that we’re seeing the legal market implode. Why do I say this?

Firms are like pyramids, with a few pointy-heads at the top being supported by a greater and greater number of pointy-head wannabes below them. However, in recent months, firms have carved big holes in their support structures – all in the name of keeping the pointy heads at the very pinnacle.

Now that these organizations have finished decimating their middle ranks, they’ve cut their intake of new blood. The bottom, too, is going to be gone. Next, the firms are hatcheting off the almost-pointy-heads at the partnership level. Pretty soon, the firm of Gross, Grand and Huge will be down to two attoreys, Gross and Grand – and when Gross doesn’t pull in enough to keep them at the AmLaw pinnacle, Gross will be gone, too.

Any study of the social effects of a bubble economy shouldn’t hesitate to focus on the legal market – where we have now seen a complete breakdown in the social compact that once kept this rather patrician profession together. It’s true – when the sharks run out of fish, they eat each other… yum.

As I watched the law firm layoff numbers balloon throughout the quarter, I couldn’t help but wonder how many law students would become entrepreneurs after law school.  Given the market, I’d expect that a few would find themselves in that place.

That got me thinking about this time.  Big Law is collapsing, eliminating the bottom and middle of their pyramid schemes.  With the foundation eliminated, it isn’t clear that the top will be able to survive.  Partners who have commanded legions of associates are now going to have to get their own hands dirty, and it isn’t clear how many clients will have the stomach, or the bank balance, to tolerate $700/hour fees – even if they’re discounted by 10%.

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  • Mike: I was just speaking to a friend in DC that was explaining the same thing to me. The firm he's been clawing his way to the middle of for the last 7 ye

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