“Firms outside the Premier and Championship leagues are playing a different sport.” Thus, the winning strategies are different.


Jae Um, in her bracketing exercise for The American Lawyer magazine, arrays the 2022 AmLaw 100 based on the structure of the English football league system. At the top are 22 firms in the Premier League. Next is the Championship League, with 23 firms focused intently on getting promoted to Premier.  The third group is “Everybody Else,” which includes all the corporate law firms playing in lower-tier leagues.

Yet, as Jae Um pointed out during her visit to my Law Firms class, “it’s a mistake to extend the soccer metaphor to all 300 US/UK law firms that are doing significant amounts of corporate legal work.”  Jae explains that Premier and Championship League firms have some combination of practice areas (type, quality, depth), sector focus, and geographic footprint that enable them to attract price-insensitive work from the world’s largest and wealthiest clients. See Part II (332) (discussing market power of these firms).

Jae continues, “The 250+ firms outside the Premier and Championship leagues are playing a different sport.”
Continue Reading Learning about law firms, Part III: Innovation at “Everybody Else” firms (335)


Stable, transparent, not very complicated, reasonably profitable, and often quite collegial. It also has flaws.


As noted in Part I (330) of this “learning about law firms” series, it’s taken nearly two decades in the trenches, including many years doing applied work with law firms, for a very confusing and counterintuitive insight to come into focus:  Most large firms are not “firms” in the sense of conventional business theory.  Instead, they are a confederation of individual partners building and running leveraged practices in various complementary and adjacent legal specialties.

In today’s essay (Part II), I’ll add a second counterintuitive insight:  For the most part, lawyers pay little or no financial price for organizing themselves as a confederation rather than a firm.  Even in the event of spectacular collapse, as was the case with Dewey, Brobeck, Heller, Howrey, Thelen, and many other large firms, see ALM Staff, “30 Years of Law Firm Collapses: An Annotated Timeline,” Law.com, Oct 29, 2019, there’s always a large cadre of competitor firms looking to give the partners (and their fee-generating practices) a new home.  In most cases, what provides financial security and certainty to an equity partner is seldom the quality of firm-level strategy, or the ability of firm leadership to execute, but instead the health and vitality of their own practice.

This is what distinguishes law firms from conventional businesses. Like Legos blocks, individual law practices can be removed from one law firm and snapped onto another. 
Continue Reading Learning about law firms, Part II: Why confederation is our default model (332)


Unlike sharks, killer whales hunt collaboratively.  Is this the right approach to the legal tech vertical?


Why aren’t more law firms investing in startups and/or launching corporate venture arms? Is corporate venture capital (CVC) a good fit for the legal industry? If not, is there a better model? And then, finally, what does all of this have to do with killer whales?

In this essay, I’m going to attempt to answer each of these questions. I will start by giving a brief introduction to CVC and then I will outline the current models of law firm venture investments, highlighting both strengths and shortcomings. In the second half of this essay, I’ll suggest an alternative model, a collaborative industry-wide approach which I have dubbed “Investing like Killer Whales.” This is the strategy we used when we syndicated an investment in AI-based contract benchmarking startup TermScout.  See Abramowitz, “As Promised, Our Second #Legaltech Investment Announcement This Week,Zach of Legal Disruption, May 5, 2022 (describing collaborative syndicate approach and why worked well for TermScout).
Continue Reading Sharing my playbook for Legal Tech investment (324)


Relevant to what’s happening today.


This post is about three empirically based theories of national decline.  It’s written as a freestanding essay.  However, some readers may want to know that it’s also Part II of a two-part project to help me better understand the root causes of the United States’ growing social and political instability.

Part I (312) explored the Gilded Age, which is the closest parallel to the present.  In addition, I wrote a shorter bridge essay (319) that provides some useful historical information on the U.S. tax code and takes a critical look at the narrative, embedded in the legal profession’s code of ethics, that lawyers have special roles and responsibilities in the preservation of constitutional democracy and the rule of law.

As noted in Part I and the bridge, I am using these essays to “build a sturdier, more informed, and more realistic intellectual frame — i.e., something that can be fully squared with the present day.” This is a difficult topic that requires a lot of work. Yet, in our present environment, and speaking only for myself, I’ve concluded that it would be unethical, immoral, and decadent to focus on other “more practical” projects.  Further, I suspect a subset of readers shares my sense of alarm.  Hence, I’m sharing my work.
Continue Reading Three empirically based theories of national decline (book review) (321)


Our last two feature essays, Posts 312 and 314, reflect a sharp departure from usual Legal Evolution content, primarily because of the seriousness of events in the broader world.

The Legal Evolution readership is composed of innovators and early adopters. Thus, we spend a significant portion of our lives trying to improve the status quo — to make it more efficient, humane, data-driven, and diverse.  Yet, if you take the time to wade into Posts 312 and 314, you’ll see that Jae Um and I have concluded that the status quo has more foundational problems that we can no longer ignore.

In Post 312, I explore the topic of Gilded Age lawyers to better understand the present, which is marked by similar levels of economic inequality and political populism. History shows that these forces have the power to rip apart a representative democracy.
Continue Reading Too foundational to ignore (313)


An emerging role in legal tech companies that ties together sales, marketing, and customer success.


At Legal Evolution, we often return to the above “five stages of evolution” graphic as a reminder that the legal industry has entered a period of profound tumult and uncertainty.

The tumult is driven by the cost, quality, and service delivery advantages of systematized & packaged legal solutions, which has set off a gold rush in legal tech. See Post 255 (Zach Abramowitz tracking legal tech investment).  The uncertainty is driven by the need for new business models combined with the lack of established, sales channels that enable end-users to buy with confidence.  Cf Post 279 (Jae Um observing that legal vertical is composed of multiple markets that are both fluid and segmented in nonobvious ways).

Well, what about solutions—is anything on the horizon?
Continue Reading How Chief Revenue Officers are making legal tech better (284)


Trading ego for effectiveness, friendship, and purpose.


Joe Borstein and Paul Stroka asked me to get naked with them. I said yes. Then Bill asked me to write about it. So here we are.

Now that you’re hooked by the clickbait headline and the tease, we must, naturally, commence with an anecdotal aside before I explain why the platitudinous “our customers are our business” is especially true for LexFusion, why “everyone talks to us because everyone talks to us,” and what these say about the evolution of the  broader legal innovation ecosystem.
Continue Reading Getting naked with colleagues and clients (267)


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)

Source:  Gravity Stack [Click on to enlarge]

Sophisticated investors are betting on contract tech. It’s about business, not the intricacies or importance of law.


Today’s post (256) and last week’s (255) are a two-part series on the burgeoning legal tech sector.

Whereas Post 255 focused on the explosion in the legal technology market over the past year—five new #Legaltech Unicorns, three companies go public—this post looks contract tech, which is arguably legal tech’s hottest subsector.
Continue Reading Because Everyone Else Cares: Why legal should be paying attention to contracts (256)


A slice is reserved for everyone who predicts the future of law.


Today is the debut of Anusia Gillespie’s monthly Q&A column on NewLaw Fundamentals.  See Post 243.  This post (241) is an explainer on why we are running Anusia’s series. One part of the explanation is practical.  A second part is deeply analytical and likely of more interest to regular Legal Evolution readers.  Both parts, however, are rooted in the value of humility.
Continue Reading Humble pie diet (241)