The Shrinking Of Big Law, Ctd

Mark Obbie takes issue with Scheiber’s thesis:

From the cover lines and title (“Big Law in Free Fall,” “The Last Days of Big Law”) to an outlandishly flimsy nut graf (claiming just one in 10 top firms will survive the imminent apocalypse, or so says “one common hypothesis” that then never gets explained or examined), the story looks at one sore throat and proclaims it a cancer pandemic. Its prognosis on the death of the mid-sized full-service firm echoes a forecast made so many times it has lost all credibility. Then the piece takes yet another giant step into journalism hell by shooting readers through a time warp that conveniently skips the past 30 or so years of Big Law business history. Big Law has been declared dying for decades. Pieces touting the death of Big Law have been written for decades. Unfortunately, “Big Law Still Really, Really Dying,” while arguable (except where it’s still really, really profitable), doesn’t sell copy.

Meanwhile, Leah Plunkett focuses on the Americans who can’t afford legal help:

When people can’t get lawyers to help them with complex problems, they stand to lose (pdf) the things that are most precious to them, like custody of their children, the roof over their heads, or that quintessentially American opportunity to make a fresh start after crashing and burning.

Even if all Americans could afford to pay for lawyers, there may well not be any lawyers around. Outside of cities, lawyers can be scarce. As The New York Timesrecently reported, South Dakota has gone so far as to pass a law that will pay lawyers to work in that state’s rural communities. A worthy endeavor, but it’s difficult to imagine that the program will do much to get the over-supply of lawyers on Wall Street to migrate to Main Street: The annual stipend for South Dakota’s program is less than a month’s salary for a first-year Big Law associate in New York.1 And of course, as others have discussed, today’s young lawyers—who might otherwise be intrigued by doing Little Law on the Prairie—frequently face financial debt that is insurmountable on all but a Big Law salary.