Legal blogs and trade publications have been writing about “The Death of Big Law” for months. But now it’s official. The patient has been pronounced dead by no less an authority than the New York Times. Who needs the fat lady to sing when the Gray Lady has spoken?
First, a quick caveat. Obviously Biglaw hasn’t “died”; large law firms continue to exist, and they continue to be very profitable. They may have to evolve with changing times, but they are still with us, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. What has died, rather, is a certain version of Biglaw, full of fabulosity, fun and frothiness — think Biglaw, circa 2007. May it rest in peace.
So, on to the article. It appeared in print in yesterday’s Sunday Styles — yes, the Style section, normally the home of wedding announcements and trendspotting pieces (sometimes of questionable validity). Despite its location in a guilty pleasure of a section, however, it’s a solid and hard-hitting piece.
The reporter, Alex Williams, begins by discussing The Deep End, the new ABC show set in a law firm (and previously mocked by Elie). It features associates having tons o’ fun — which makes it ridiculously outdated (assuming it ever was accurate). Williams writes:
“The Deep End” was conceived in 2007, that halcyon era of $160,000 starting salaries and full employment even for law grads who had scored in the 150s on their LSAT’s.
Those days are over. As the profession lurches through its worst slump in decades, with jobs and bonuses cut and internal pressures to perform rising, associates do not just feel as if they are diving into the deep end, but rather, drowning.
As you can tell from this excerpt, the article is stylishly written and fun to read. Although it might not tell regular ATL readers much that will surprise them, it’s a well-reported wrap-up of where things stand now, sure to be appreciated by a general audience. (It’s also much better than the Times’s last major effort to tackle Biglaw as a topic.)
The piece has been at or near the top of the NYT’s “Most E-Mailed” list for a few days now (since it first appeared online well before it showed up yesterday in print). Help it stay on the list by emailing the article to your parents or friends. Or do a good deed, and email it to that cousin of yours who is thinking about going to law school. She’ll thank you later.
Okay, that was a cheap shot — there are legitimate reasons to go to law school. But there are also things about the law, as a profession and as a business, that potential law students ought to know.
Let’s dig deeper into the piece….