Chillin'Competition

Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Weekend readings – Law firms: a less guilded future

with 4 comments

I would very much recommend you to take a moment to read an excellent piece published on the latest issue of The Economist.  (Thanks to Mark English for calling our attention to it)

At a moment where some are reporting on the pick up on profits and revenues at Big Law, this article from The Economist contains a very insightful analysis of the many challenges that lie ahead for the legal profession, not all of which are cyclical. I tend to agree with a lot of what’s said there (except, maybe, for that last phrase on how “a firm’s only real asset are its partners”…).

Click here to read the online version.

And, although I’m sure most of you have at least heard about it, those interested on further readings on the future of the legal profession should definetely read Susskind’s brilliant book The End of Lawyers.

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

8 May 2011 at 1:37 pm

Posted in Life at Law Firms

4 Responses

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  1. Howrey is the Lehman Brothers of law firms 🙂

    Nicolas Petit

    9 May 2011 at 9:57 am

  2. The Economist is a good magazine, but this article is patently absurd. In short, you either have to be Skadden / Cravath or DLA Piper / B&Mc to have a future. Nonsense.

    Damien Geradin

    9 May 2011 at 3:43 pm

    • I actually think that the first half of the article (the one which identifies structural trends not linked to the economic downturn) makes a lot of sense. That´s, to me, the most important part of the piece.

      It is true that the second part of the article (starting with the question on “what kind of firm is likely to thrive in the environment in which Howrey failed?”) does not make that much sense. It is unnecesarily harsh with Howrey (the fact that they lack insider knowledge may also explain that…), and basically picks some firms which are doing well and tries to come up with artifical categories to justify their success. Of course it´s simplistic (as you would expect from most articles published on non-specialized publications), and certainly second-guessing is always easy, but even with that in mind there can be a kneckle of truth in some of what´s said, and definetely some food for thought.

      Alfonso Lamadrid

      9 May 2011 at 4:35 pm

  3. As a former Howrey associate who was with the firm until its last weeks, I had the difficult but instructive experience of witnessing at first hand the fragility of a professional services business. Even an excellent firm may fail. As the article points out, when there is little tangible holding a firm together you are left essentially with the collective belief that the creature will survive.

    Whilst I do not feel qualified to opine on what it takes to be a successful law firm, I find it curious that the Economist uses Howrey’s demise as a narrative whilst at the same time appearing to endorse, amongst others, a business model in which a firm elects to be “tightly focused” and “concentrate on only a few fields”.

    Finally, at least one element of Howrey (Brussels) lives on, we still field a team in a local five-a-side football league, though admittedly without much success (at least when I play for them).

    Mark English

    9 May 2011 at 6:43 pm


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