New Normal Confirmed, Characterized

UNC Law Professor Bernie Burk observes in his article, What’s New About the New Normal: The Evolving Market for New Lawyers in the 21st Century,  that since 2007 (i) law hiring has fallen substantially, (ii) most of the fall is attributable to reduced hiring by firms of more than 100 lawyers, (iii) applications to law schools have dropped, and (iv) law school enrollments and classes are now much smaller than they used to be.           new lawyer

Professor Burk says these drops are not merely reflections of normal cycles in the economy. Instead, he says they reflect structural changes in how legal services are delivered. Functions once performed by associates in large law firms are now being provided in new ways (outsourcing, downsourcing, insourcing and such). So you don’t need so many associates.

These are permanent changes, Burk says.

Bernie does not say it, but I will: the structural changes he identifies (and others he does not) have important implications for our evolving understanding of what “law practice” is; how we organize to deliver legal services, what law firms will look like; and how we educate new lawyers.

The world is steadily shaping itself to predictions made in a string of posts that appeared right here some time back.

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