The old saw “may you live in interesting times” is often considered a curse. And after a decade that encompassed so much turmoil, it’s difficult to argue with that interpretation. Even in the legal profession, generally a haven of stability with its comfortable salaries and steady work, tumult seemed to rule.
In this issue, we recount — with no pun intended, Mr. Gore — the events of a remarkable decade for the law and the profession. On Jan. 1, 2000, it would have been difficult to imagine the current state of affairs. The dot-com bubble was still inflating. We were at peace. The world had even ducked the Y2K bug.
So much has changed in the past decade, in fact, that we struggled to whittle down our selections for the defining moments in law to this special issue. In the end, wesettled upon 25 developments that we believe are the biggest legal stories of the decade. Consider this a scrapbook of memories — some pleasant, a few awful — of the 2000s. And as the ’10s dawn and the interesting times continue, let us hope the curse turns into a blessing.
1. War on terror tests the limits of law
From telecommunications to transportation, from immigration to interrogation, from detention to rendition, the war on terrorism strained the conventional framework of American law. It triggered new statutes, the expansion of old ones and, in critics’ views, transgressed others.
2. For associates, a time of thrills and chills
Between 2000 and 2009, law firms doled out jaw-dropping bonuses, lavished benefits like never before and hiked first-year salaries to a point that drew the envy of federal judges. The decade also featured mass job cuts, pay reductions and a decided shift in power for recent law graduates, many of whom, at the decade’s conclusion, were clamoring for even part-time work at living-wage levels.
3. Accounting scandals flood the courts
Lax corporate oversight combined with an intense desire to keep company stock prices high created a climate that allowed executive after executive to cross the line. Faced with a barrage of high-profile scandals, prosecutors responded by making corporate fraud a priority. But in their eagerness to get tough, the government overreached, some argue.
4. They blog, they tweet, they friend
5. Seats change at the high court
6. The decade was fun while it lasted
7. Where have all the flowers gone?
8. A law office in every port
9. The ruling that picked a president
10. A time of backlash and disgrace
11. Of politics and prosecutors
12. Really, fewer hourly bills
13. Goodbye to real partners
14. Regulation takes a vacation
15. Court splits on race and gender
16. Little progress on diversity
17. Prosecutors behaving badly
18. The end of an age of innocence
19. Downloading cases dominated
20. A patently provocative period
21. Death penalty lost some sting
22. Threats went beyond words
23. Pakistani lawyers marched
24. Gay rights battle heats up
25. Corruption cases get bigger