An analytically rigorous but accessible guide to the shifting world of big law.
MacEwen (Growth is Dead: Now What?, 2013) has built a strong reputation within the legal industry as an innovative thinker. He practiced law for years in New York, founded the popular website AdamSmithEsq.com and has written for numerous periodicals about legal issues. In his second book, he parses “Big Law” into its elemental, commercial parts, detailing the basic categories of law firms, including “Global Players,” “Capital Markets” and “Boutiques.” He proceeds in the spirit of biological taxonomy, linking his approach to the Linnaean method of classifying different types of natural life. He aims to use the taxonomy not only to describe these firms, but also to demonstrate the evolving nature of competition in the legal sphere: “I believe an analogy to biological classification is useful…because there’s competition within species (between individual firms who are essentially alike) as well as competition across species (between, e.g., global firms and boutiques).” For the firms themselves, understanding these classifications, and their places within them, is necessary to gauge their target audiences and to market themselves effectively to prospective clients. The author deftly presents each of the seven types, highlighting its unique characteristics, its advantages and disadvantages, and its “managerial priorities.” He concludes with an engaging, original view about the future of law firm competition partly inspired by Stephen Jay Gould’s “punctuated equilibria theory”: “We have enjoyed a long period of stasis, but now we may be at the start of a period of intense speciation, with new forms of life emerging—some of which will prove adaptive and survive and others of which will be rejected by the antibodies of the marketplace.” Even for the nonexpert, MacEwen’s prose is clear and mercifully free of gratuitous jargon.
A sharp, concise meditation on the business of law and, by extension, an important commentary on the state of the economy as a whole.