Millennials were already skeptical of the law firm model. Then the pandemic hit, reinforcing the legal profession’s worst tendencies. A walk through the data.


Law firm leaders generally underestimated the magnitude, duration, and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like other experienced but untrained decision-makers, many law firm leaders were excessively optimistic about their firm’s prospects and conceptually limited in defining their firm’s risks.

Even the law firms that met or exceeded their financial aspirations now face a force stronger and more threatening to their business model than COVID-19: disaffected, disenchanted, and disappointed Millennial attorneys constituting nearly one-half of all attorneys in the 400 largest law firms. Thus, lawyers are very much a part of an upheaval in the nation’s workforce that Gallup calls the “The Great Discontent” and “The Great Resignation.”
Continue Reading Millennial attorneys, COVID-19, and innovation (260)


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)


Len Fromm’s lawyer shares what he’s learned.


Positively Conflicted is the right book for any lawyer seeking a rich and fulfilling life, which is a larger category than one’s career.

According to the author, lawyer-meditator Sam Ardery, we get to this highly desirable endpoint by getting good at conflict. On one level, this makes sense, as we’re all in the conflict business. But Ardery’s definition of conflict is remarkably broad and includes the tensions and traumas of our personal, professional, and familial relations as well internal conflicts, where we stew over our inadequate supply of power, security, esteem, and comfort.
Continue Reading Positively Conflicted (book review) (252)


“One of the biggest myths in legal education is that there is more than enough well-paying work for anyone who has a law license.”


About ten years ago, through a connection made by Bill Henderson, I was invited to a gathering of law-school professors in Northern California.  I was still a manager of a global law firm at the time, and Bill thought that it would be useful to add a practitioner to the group, which otherwise comprised solely academics from around the US.  I remembered this conference recently as I read about the focused efforts of the Debevoise & Plimpton law firm starting in 2012 to bolster demand for its services after years of no growth or decline. See Dylan Jackson, “Debevoise Faced a Demand Crisis. Its Solution Required Change From the Ground Up,” Law.com, July 1, 2021.

The reason for the flashback was my laughed-at suggestion that law schools should add a course in sales and marketing to their curricula. 
Continue Reading Would sales & marketing in law school cross a red line? (251)

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)


A. Using the wrong approach to innovation, followed by an effective one-by-one approach that did not scale.


The biggest mistake that I made as the US innovation lead at a global law firm was in trying to teach lawyers how to “do” innovation—how to do my job.  My intention was to empower them with NewLaw resources to better solve legal and business of law challenges for their clients.  I felt privileged to have this magic wand of innovation, of robust problem-solving, to offer them.  But I chose the wrong method at the outset.  And, unfortunately for my mandate, intention does not equal perception.
Continue Reading Q. What has been your biggest mistake as an innovation lead? (243)


Diversity is indeed associated with higher law firm profits.  To accept this fact, the profession needs to understand why.


Figure 1 above reports expected changes in average partner compensation at different levels of racial diversity among attorneys in large law firms.  These results come from an “all else equal” model that accounts for differences in a multitude of other relevant factors, such as geography, leverage, and firm prestige.

The key takeaway? Within the large firm market, firms with higher shares of Asian, Black, Hispanic, and Multiracial attorneys (“diverse attorneys”) are paying their partners higher average levels of compensation—at about a $260K premium for the firms with the highest diverse representation.
Continue Reading Nothing not to like: diversity and law firm profitability (238)

Photo by Maarten van den Heuvel on Unsplash

For the legal industry, the answer is likely “now.”


Lawyers love the expression “better, faster, cheaper—pick two.”  But what happens when there is a change in the state of the art such that gains in all three are possible and the only constraint is a workforce with the requisite state-of-the-art skills?
Continue Reading When is a generational strategy the best strategy? (235)


Going long on our professional relationships.


Like many things in the world, the one-two punch of automation and the pandemic have vastly altered the landscape of professional networking.  To a great extent, building relationships in the clubhouse after a glorious afternoon on the links or while sipping a Woodford while awaiting your grilled branzino has been replaced, at least temporarily, with the likes of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and, of course, the business networking platform LinkedIn.

Some in the legal industry may welcome this sudden and stark shift, while other wish we could return to the ways things worked pre-pandemic. Alas, with COVID getting under control, we are finally in a position to construct a new normal that includes a heightened appreciation for technology.
Continue Reading One legal professional’s systematic approach to LinkedIn (234)


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