A high-profile law-firm consultant offers a grim prognosis, and advice, for the upper echelons of the legal profession.
Debut author MacEwen—the president of consultancy Adam Smith, Esq., a former securities lawyer and a writer of numerous articles on economic and strategic issues facing large, sophisticated law firms—warns in this brief, to-the-point volume that top-grossing firms must either adapt to the post-2008 economic reset or risk extinction. He addresses a range of problems, such as the lack of growth in client demand, a surplus of highly paid partners doing too little and junior lawyers with unrealistic career expectations, cost-cutting globalization, ever-evolving technology that drives fewer to do more, and emboldened clients demanding lower legal fees. The overriding question, MacEwen says, is whether these beleaguered law firms will be self-aware enough to reinvent themselves in the face of vastly altered economic realities. Or, like Herman Melville’s scrivener Bartleby, will they simply prefer not to? MacEwen writes that lawyers’ natural aversion to failure could lead to trouble when trial-and-error reinvention is the order of the day. “I submit that our rigid intolerance for failure is so extreme and ultimately perverse that it disables us from being capable of smart decision making,” he declares. The author’s writing style is straightforward, engaging, and urbane yet informal and never recondite. However, it may be hard for some readers to weep for lawyers earning, by MacEwen’s reckoning, an average of $1.4 million a year—and feeling they are worth more. The book’s audience may include law-firm principals, law school graduates and students looking for a way in through the closing door, and pre-law students who might want to rethink their career choice—as well as readers who don’t like lawyers and delight in their agonies.
An authoritative, if narrowly directed, look at Big Law.