‘Something looks wrong.’ So begins a recent Greg Ip column in The Wall Street Journal. What exactly ‘looks wrong?’ Well, the economy, stupid.
‘New York To $190!’ was the long-running headline Above The Law printed frequently in more innocent and/or palmier days, with (we suppose) a combination of hope and bemusement. Well, Cravath’s pre-emptive strike of going to $180k didn’t quite get us there. Welcome to the New Normal – or the New Mediocre, the version I’m fond …
With the release last week of the Annual Report from Georgetown Law’s Center for the Study of the Legal Profession, the ‘Big Three’ annual reports – Altman-Weil’s Law Firms in Transition, Citi/Hildebrandt’s Client Advisory, and Georgetown’s – are now all out and we can see what trends and developments they seem to discuss in common.
Year-end is often seen, understandably if somewhat arbitrarily, as a time for reflection. Actually, in my book there’s never a bad time for reflection, so I’ll take an arbitrary peg over no peg.
It has become commonplace – I have bowed to convention and endorsed the notion myself – to observe that law firms are labour not capital – intensive, and that (here’s the dangerous and subtle segue) therefore there would be no benefit to them in taking on outside investors, much less going public.
IBM Watson. Google’s driverless cars. Uncanny recommendations from Amazon, Siri, and Google Now. Not to mention the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award for 2015 going to Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots: Technology and the threat of a jobless future, summarised as:
Presumably you make decisions all the time, in managing your matters, selecting strategies and tactics, and of course outside the work environment as well – with your spouse or significant other, family, and pets; in the context of your church, synagogue, club, neighbourhood; and on and on.
A week or two ago, we were having drinks here in New York with two senior corporate partners at an AmLaw-25 firm that is quite self-aware enough to know it’s not in the realm of the super-elite, and the topic turned to pricing.
Recently in New York, Adam Smith Esq had the opportunity to invite a couple of dozen law firms to ‘An Introduction to IBM Watson’ at the brand new $1bn IBM Watson facility down on Astor Place. This is not going to be a report on that event, except insofar as it helped advance our thinking …
The industry standard in tracking US law firm mergers, Altman Weil’s Mergerline, has had this to say about activity in the wake of the Global Financial Reset: