An Omnibus Plan for Law Firms, Students

In the Beginning, there was the Bubble. It inflated steadily over about 30 years, and then it expired in the Great Recession. The Recession put an end to the Omnibus Law Firm Business Plan, which was (i) suffer your  business to grow by 5% to 10% a year; and (ii) hire new lawyers at the rate of 5% to 10% each year.Supply

The 30-Year Bubble and the Omnibus Plan were manageable, even for a “learned profession.”

Over the life of the Bubble and fueled by the Omnibus Plan, getting a law degree and working for a Big Law firm came to be seen as a good way to school yourself into making a lot of money. So, students came. Law schools expanded. New ones opened. Law firms competed to hire new lawyers. Law schools imposed rules about when and how law firms were permitted to hire new lawyers. And law students borrowed great sums to get into the game.

The Recession ended all that. Management got tricky. Hiring slowed, stopped and started. Getting a law degree no longer appeared to be a reliable path to a lot of money. Law classes shrank. Advice came about careers other than law practice for which law degrees are a good preparation (or, not).

Current data  shows little improvement in the post-Recession law-job market (“despite signs of modest improvement, . . .  there are still signs of weakness in the entry-level job market”).

Now, there is a new debate. Will shrinking law school classes, like bad harvests, create shortages?

Slate adjures “Apply to Law School Now! Things Are Looking Rosy.”

Above the Law rejoins “Sweet Baby Seamus, Do Not Apply to Law School Now!

Slate sur-rejoins: No, We really Mean It. Go to Law School.  Seriously.

Pointers about planning for persons considering legal careers and for managers of law firms:

Sooner or later this “market” will get the supply in line with the demand. Things will settle down.

Keep your eye instead on this: Even as the market is sorting out supply and demand, the legal profession is changing in fundamental ways. This is the result of developments in information and communications technology, globalization, the evolution of  in-house legal departments, and the growing sophistication of the unlicensed workforce (we call them “non-lawyers”).

The kinds of work that the law-licensed might do in the future are morphing all over the place. So is the competition. There is no longer a single, homogeneous species called “lawyer.” (So, why should there be a single institution called a “law school”?)

The advice from this station then is: try to get clear about what kind of law-related career and legal work suit you — or your law firm. What skills do you have or can you get? How do these align with what is coming? What kind of work gets your motor running? (This is sometimes referred to as strategic planning.)

I don’t think I’d do something I didn’t want to do, even if there’s a great market for it.

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