At LegalTech, I had a chance to attend a panel with some very interesting speakers on the “future” of law.
During this panel, a question was posed to a person — we’ll call him “David L.” — on whether law students are feeling better about the market now as opposed to six or twelve months ago. His answer: yes, but perhaps not in the way you might imagine. Students are feeling better because they’ve become resigned to their fates, which has actually been quite liberating. After all, “Why stress about your career when you’ll be just lucky to have one?”
Another resignation to fate was taking place right before my eyes, one that went almost completely unnoticed among those in attendance: the end of the current BigLaw Partner-Associate (Cravath) Model.
More after the jump.
The moderator of the panel asked: “The Cravath Model has existed for over a hundred years, why can’t it exist for one more?” In other words, it’s been around forever, why should we change it now?
The question was quickly and astutely answered by another panelist, a chairman of major AmLaw 100 firm. He said that the Cravath model was from a different time, when associates were hired as “apprentices.” Of course, this not-so-tacitly admits that associates are no longer seen that way at all, except for perhaps a select few.
In fact, among the people who attended that panel, the Cravath Model was already dead on arrival. The attendees in the room were polled as to what law firms would look like in the future. The answer was that nobody really knew. Most thought law firms would become a “morass” that would be almost unrecognizable to the law firms of the past. Going forward, large law firms would rely more heavily on staff and contract attorneys, outsourcing, and better use of legal technology.
The good news — which kind of shocked me, I must admit — was that most in the room also thought that law firms would emerge out of this more profitable than ever.
Perhaps resigning to one’s fate is a good thing after all.