Tough Times for Biglaw Partners?


Are partners at large firms now at risk of being deequitized or terminated? So far, most of the reports of layoffs at firms have focused on staff and associates. But the legal profession is still in a recession and at least one pundit believes that trimming the partnership ranks is next.

But maybe biglaw is in for even more fundamental change. As another commentator puts it, by 2011, corporate legal dollars are not going to be supporting law firm associate leverage to the same degree. Instead:

1. Clients will just flat out spend less, drive harder bargains, and get more for their money.
2. Some work will go to outsourcers, whether onshore or off.
3. More work will go to contract lawyers or proto-associates not on any kind of partnership track.
4. Some associate time will get replaced by technology.

The meta message is that large law firms will be in retrenchment mode for some time to come.

With every change, of course, there comes opportunity. So who will the winners be? I predict the winners will be smaller law firms, legal process outsourcing companies, companies with “great” technology and large law firms who learn how to adapt.

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