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The legal profession appears to be on autopilot.


This post is for legal market analysts who are looking for updated and reliable data on the current legal services market. Collectively, its eight graphics reveal several themes that ought to give us pause, as we (the legal profession) may not have unlimited runaway to focus on strategies related to income and profit.

Most of the underlying data come from the Economic Census, which is a detailed ongoing survey of US businesses conducted every five years (years ending in 2 and 7) by the US Census Bureau.  Because of the size and scope of the data collection effort (it’s a census, not a sampling), it takes the full five-year cycle to complete the analysis and release the findings. The final—and in my view, the most interesting—installments were published last fall.
Continue Reading Eight updated graphics on the US legal services market (285)

Somruthai Keawjan via Unsplash

I get a lot of questions about legal market data.  Today I attempt to explain one of the most frequently asked questions: why demand and pricing seem to be uniquely uncoupled in legal markets.


By and large, 2021 was a year of anticlimactic letdowns.  In a sloggy, tiresome, gradual sort of way, most of us realized that the ravages of COVID would not be defeated in one fell swoop.

One exception has been the trade news coverage on Big Law’s bonanza.  In August, Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor rated Q2 of 2021 a record-breaking quarter in its proprietary index of law firm performance.  (Notwithstanding the battery of disclaimers and historical context provided in the fine print, many industry observers decided that this misleading picture is indeed worth a thousand explanatory words.)
Continue Reading #BadData, Part I: (Topsy Turvy) Demand for Legal Services (279)


Boomer retirements ought to be a boon for law school clinics.


The Hidden Brain podcast episode Cultivating Your Purpose begins with an effective metaphor that is well-known to aging Baby Boomers: Dustin Hoffman, playing Benjamin Braddock in “The Graduate,” is drifting aimlessly on a raft in a swimming pool, as he has been doing for weeks after graduating from college.  When Benjamin confirms to his father that he has no plans whatsoever for the future, Benjamin’s father leans over him and demands to know “what was the point of all of that hard work?” Benjamin responds, “you got me.”  Unfortunately, many Baby Boom lawyers are asking themselves the same question after they retire or approach retirement—“what’s the point?”
Continue Reading Could a purpose deficit fill unmet legal need? (273)


115,770 versus 107,209


Above is a graphic that shows the increase in the number of employed lawyers broken down by sector.  The takeaway is that in-house is growing much faster than the government and law firm sectors.

This graphic was originally published in Post 003 (through 2016).  Thus, I thought it was time for an update.

From1997 (the first year of comparable data from the BLS) to 2020, the number of lawyers employed in-house has increased from 34,750 to 115,770 — a 3x increase. Yes, the rapid pace of growth is noteworthy, but equally significant is the relatively large size of the in-house sector.  As a point of comparison, there are 145,600 lawyers (partners, associates, and other attorneys) working in a domestic office of one of the nation’s 500 largest law firms (NLJ 500). (Another 28,100 NLJ 500 lawyers work outside the U.S.)
Continue Reading In-house is bigger than BigLaw (262)


Pretty much everything was a counterintuitive curveball.


In April of 2006, more than 15 years ago, I wrote a memo to file that would go on to exert a disproportionately large impact on my thinking and career, albeit many of the lessons took years to come into focus and were far from what I expected.

The topic was Moneyball as applied to law firm associates—in essence, sketching out the data and methodology necessary to identify under and overvalued attributes of law firm associates, akin to the selection methods used by Oakland Athletics in the famous book by Michael Lewis.
Continue Reading Moneyball for law firm associates: a 15-year retrospective (257)


Making lemonade out of lemons.


It’s sometimes hard for those of us working in professional services or the legal profession to fully and completely walk in the shoes of our clients.   Sometimes it takes a bit of real-world experience to get us there. 

My spouse, Mila Jones (we call her Miles), was recently involved in a controversy that had the potential to result in class-action litigation involving several sophisticated parties.  As a loving and supportive spouse whose household was personally affected by the alleged wrong—and someone who earns his living in the litigation business—I had the experience of walking in the shoes of a prospective client.  And no surprise, it was eye-opening.
Continue Reading My walk in the shoes of a prospective client (254)

Lindy’s Delicatessen, 51st & Broadway, NYC (credit: Bertil Carlson, via Wikimedia Commons)

Yes. The Cravath System. The case method.  And much more.


Here’s the technical definition of the “Lindy effect“: The robustness of an idea or technology (anything nonperishable) is proportional to its longevity.

This post examines how we can observe the Lindy effect in many facets of life, including law.  Some of these are obvious, like the Cravath System and the Langdellian case method, which are both in their second century and show no signs of fading.  But are there durable aspects of life and business we are overlooking because, rather foolishly, we’re favoring what is novel, shiny, and hyped?
Continue Reading Does the Lindy effect apply to law? (244)


In ways that are often self-interested and counterproductive.


Why do I keep banging on about inquiry (i.e., asking good questions rather than advocating an opinion or advice)?  Because it’s so important and we’re  so bad at it.

I still remember the first time I tracked dialogue in a group of lawyer-leaders.   I was working with


Count me among the skeptics.


We are all familiar with the allegations that CEOs of publicly traded companies manipulating their earnings from period to period by such actions as booking discretionary expenses at the end of a strong quarter or deferring a major sale until the beginning of a new period.  No one thinks that these actions are laudable from an integrity standpoint, and sometimes they are sufficiently flagrant to result in securities-fraud allegations.

Thus, it is surprising to me that law firm managers have been boasting in the first quarter of 2021 about their prudence in prepaying in the last quarter of 2020 major expenses that were not due until 2021.  See, e.g., Andrew Mahoney, “Big Firms Headed Off ‘Great Unknowns’ by Pre-Paying Bills,” Law.com, Mar. 10, 2021 (discussing prevalence of practice).
Continue Reading Is income manipulation by Big Law laudable behavior? (227)

Photo Credit: ESA/NASA

The 4th Industrial Revolution is here (even for lawyers).  A look at what digital transformation actually means for legal markets — and the investments tomorrow’s winners are making today.

Today’s post is the final part in the 5-part series #GreatExpectations for the #GreatReset.  (Like the vaccine rollout 💉 and my workout plan 😁, this post is a bit delayed 🥺.  A million thanks to Bill and the Legal Evolution audience for the patience!)
Continue Reading #GreatExpectations, Part V: Cloudy with a Chance of Digital Disruption (220)