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)


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)