It’s that time of the year again—when I peer into my crystal ball to see what’s in store for the legal profession in the new year.
Law schools will teach practical skills. Finally, firms will get what they’ve been clamoring for: Law grads trained to take depositions, write readable memos and draft contracts. Pity, only low-ranking law schools will teach those skills. So Big Law will continue to hire clueless grads with magnificent resumes.
Firms will hold parent visiting days. Realizing that millennials won’t make career decisions without consulting their helicoptering parents, firms will give Mom and Dad a tour of the offices, feed them lunch and take them on the Circle Line to convince them they’re worthy of their precious darlings.
Firms will make a big show about work/life balance. They will hire nutritionists, Pilates instructors, massage therapists, gurus and healers. Enjoy the treatments, so long as you don’t expect any fundamental changes (see points #5 and #6 below).
Associates will bill 2,500 hours a year. It won’t be official policy but it will just happen—like rising rents and global warming. Once upon a time, 1,600 billable hours were considered respectable, then it became 1,800 hours, then 2,000. So what’s another few hundred hours?
Law firms will institute sales quotas. Like used car dealerships or large appliance stores, law firm will set sales targets for senior associates gunning for partnership and partners trying to hold their place. Forget top dealmaker/top litigator. Isn’t it time we recognize top salesperson?
The ranks of equity partners will shrink. Your odds of making partner will approach the odds of winning at Powerball. The number of true equity partners in a law firm will decline dramatically—below 10 percent of the total lawyer count. This will ensure that equity be reserved strictly for the top drawer—the best, the brightest and the most greedy.
But non-partner tracks will explode. Lawyers will choose from a smogasbord of alternative routes. Tracks for part-timers, flex-timers, off-rampers, on-rampers, aspiring parents (the IVF club), new parents, tired parents. None will lead to equity partnership, and women will dominate all these positions.
Freelancers will squeeze out associates. Firms will get hip about the freelance economy. Why shell out all that money for benefits and office space when they can hire experienced, burnt-out alums of top firms on an hourly or per assignment basis?
Baby Boomers will still run the show. Sorry, young ‘uns, but partners in their fifties and sixties aren’t going anywhere soon, unless they’re carried out (feet first). They’re controlling firm management and finances, and they’re hogging clients, billings and the best offices in town.
Alan Dershowitz will (still) be in the news. He’s retired from Harvard Law School and pushing 80, but he’ll make provocative statements and be crowned the Donald Trump of the legal world. (Or is Trump the Dershowitz of politics?)