Congratulations. If you’re reading this, you’ve survived the Mayan apocalypse. You’re safe to bill again.

Of course, one might be forgiven for still entertaining a few apocalyptic thoughts — particularly when thinking about the state of the legal world. Consider the law firm story of the year: the demise of Dewey & LeBoeuf. Before it went belly up in May, Dewey was one of the 20 largest firms in America, an 1,100-lawyer giant with $780 million in annual revenue. Now, it’s a cautionary tale about fiscal responsibility (or lack thereof). 

Less dramatic, but more challenging in the long run for the profession, was the ongoing battle over the state of legal education. Enrollment declined again in 2012, and as students struggled to find jobs, questions continued to churn over the nature of the curriculum at most schools.

Not all developments in 2012 made one think of the Mayans, however. And in the features that follow, we recount many of the year’s legal highlights (and plenty of low-lights, too), with a few predictions along the way.  — David L. Brown


Voir Dire
One man pleaded guilty to hacking into the email accounts of more than 50 celebrities, and some celebs themselves got into legal trouble.

The Year in Quotes
We take a look at some of the more notable quotations about legal developments from 2012.

The Careerist
Blogger Vivia Chen makes some predictions about what 2013 has in store for Big Law: more affinity groups and few management changes.

Supreme Court
The Affordable Care Act decision defined the Roberts Court in 2012, but there were other significant court-related actions.

Enforcement Actions
Federal agencies scored some resounding wins, such as the $4.5 billion criminal penalty against BP, but also suffered dramatic losses.

A slew of judicial vacancies went unfilled, with the White House facing pushback from Senate Republicans over nominees.

Intellectual Property
Patent cases predominated, from Apple’s $1 billion verdict against Samsung to the high court’s decision to consider the patentability of genes.

In-House Counsel
Rees Morrison makes predictions for 2013: In-house lawyers can look forward to more apps, more metrics and perhaps “cogniceuticals.”

Highlights of the Year
From the January 4 appointment of Richard Cordray as head of the consumer protection agency to the December 19 death of Robert Bork, 2012’s major events.

Business of Law
Between a huge bankruptcy, new blood at the top, mergers and the odd criminal conviction, the picture for law firms shifted during 2012.

Law Schools
Lower enrollment continued; graduates kept struggling to find jobs; and educators began to accept that these changes might be permanent.

The Year in Opinion
Highlights of commentary that appeared in the NLJ on some of the controversial issues of 2012.