“Some things are clearer from a distance.”


20 years ago, I didn’t know very much about law firms, though I was curious and knew law firms were important, at least to students attending law school.  Thus, why not dig into the primary vehicle for a successful and rewarding legal career?

That was my reasoning back in the fall of 2004 when I first taught a course called “The Law Firm as a Business Organization (B573).”  As a junior professor, it was an early win for my career. Foremost, the students gave it strong reviews, which enabled me to teach it again in 2006.  Second, it put me in direct contact with practicing lawyers, as I invited them to class to bring color to the assigned readings. Third, it launched some novel and original research that earned me tenure and opened doors to do challenging applied work in the legal innovation space, including Lawyer Metrics, the Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP), and Legal Evolution.

Now, for the first time in 16 years, I am teaching the Law Firms course, prompting much reflection.  See 2022 Syllabus.  What’s changed more—the law firm market or my perspective?  It’s a close call.
Continue Reading Learning about law firms, 20 years in (330)


Balancing short-term benefits against long-term costs


One bright sunny day, Jack, a junior lawyer, discovers what could be a problem—Great Idea Inc., the big-potential startup corporate client for which he is working, does not have any organizational records.  Jack’s job is to prepare Great Idea for a major venture capital investment.  He has the Certificate of Incorporation that was filed in Delaware three years earlier, but the officers of the company say that their only records consist of a cloud-stored spreadsheet that shows the equity ownership upon which the three owners have agreed.  Jack knows that the Delaware corporate statute requires an organizational meeting for the election of directors and then board action to issue shares and elect officers.
Continue Reading Will remote work adversely affect the training, productivity, and retention of lawyers? (317)


An effort to close the communication gap between legal technologists and the lawyers and called legal professionals they serve.


This post is for lawyers and allied legal professionals who are not legal technologists but want to understand some of the basic principles of constructing and operating an effective litigation management system.

The development of legal profession software —more specifically the forging of sophisticated litigation matter management systems, has been one of my core vocational functions for a period of time far longer than I wish to admit.  See Post 108 (discussing my initiation to legal in the legal department of Bristol-Myers Squibb).   It is particularly important to master and adopt advanced software of this nature when attempting to manage some of the more expansive civil litigation issues of our time (e.g., Roundup, Juul)
Continue Reading Best practices for effective litigation tracking systems (316)


When data drives growth, that’s a Hollywood ending. So where are the Moneyball sequels?


The graphic above tracks demographic representation across 12 law firms working for BASF Corporation, 2016 to 2021. On average, shares of BASF work grew +11% for diverse ethnicity partners and +46% for associates. For women, shares grew +24% for partners and +28% for associates. Additionally (not pictured), ethnicity and gender representation in firmwide leadership grew +10%.

What explains this blockbuster growth? To me, it’s the courageous leaders using data to achieve a shared mission.
Continue Reading Leading courageously with data (302)

Photo by micheile dot com on Unsplash

Success as a lawyer can come at the expense of personal relationships. Is it worth the price?


Few of my former partners in the global firm where I worked would understand my transition from a profits-first managing partner to a speaker and commentator on lawyer well-being.  How could this have happened?  Have I gone soft?  Quite the contrary—I remain on my mission to live a good life.

Before offering my views on law practice and lawyer careers, it’s useful for me to state my background upfront so that readers know my biases. For about three decades, I was a partner in a global law firm, practicing in a wide variety of business areas (frankly, wherever the clients led me).  For the last 15 years of that run, I was the full-time managing partner with firm-wide responsibility for the day-to-day business of the firm.  At the end of my third term as a managing partner (at age 62), I looked for another career and began teaching at a large university’s law school, where I started a legal clinic for startup and early-stage businesses.
Continue Reading Being #1 isn’t always a good thing—loneliness among lawyers (296)


Several in-house innovators are converging on a set of best practices.


In Competition based on better commercial contract terms (211), I reviewed the current norms surrounding commercial contracting and postulated that the growing transparency regarding what is market for a particular term would cause the market for contracts to evolve from its current souk-like state to something that more closely resembles a modern e-commerce marketplace.  Since that post came out in December 2020, numerous companies have been employing AI tools such as TermScout. and crowd-sourced data such as Bonterms, to make their contracting practices more data-driven.
Continue Reading The emergence of data-driven contracting: notes from the field (292)

Congrats,  associates!  Don’t spend it all in one place.

Cravath & Davis Polk associates are raking it in, and everyone’s got an opinion.  Here’s some data to explain how & why the new associate pay scale is a rational move in a functioning market.


Earlier this week, Cravath made waves at every trade media outlet with their 2022 salary scale:

Cravath’s announcement came on the heels of Milbank and Davis Polk each raising the stakes in the ongoing war for associate talent.  (See “Milbank Ups Associate Salaries to $215,000 in War for Talent (2),” Bloomberg Law, January 20, 2022, and “Davis Polk ups senior associate salaries in latest round of pay war,” Reuters, February 22, 2022.).  Before the close of the week, a flurry of memos followed, with a predictable roster of prestige firms matching the new top-of-market scale: Davis Polk, Paul Weiss, Kirkland, Latham, Simpson Thacher, Quinn, Skadden, Debevoise, Ropes, Shearman, Covington, White & Case, Sidley, Paul Hastings, McDermott, Boies Schiller, among others.  (See “Salary Wars Scorecard: Firms That Have Announced Raises (2022),” Above the Law, updated March 4, 2022).

Notably, Milbank has yet to respond to despite racing to first mover position in 2018 and again this year.  Also notably, Morgan Lewis is prudently sitting out the betting rounds, with a promise to monitor and match the prevailing scale once set.
Continue Reading #BadData, Part II: As the War for Talent Rages On, Let the Sorting Begin (290)

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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)