The term BigLaw has been around in the US for a while but in recent years this catch-all tag for corporate lawyering in the world’s biggest law market has taken on a decidedly pejorative tone. From the pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to prominent blogs and comments by industry observers, a popular view has taken hold to the effect that the US legal industry – in particular in New York – is a fundamentally broken model in a profession facing terminal decline.
Ultimately, this prognosis of doom remains unsatisfying for two reasons. Firstly, some of this analysis is based on attempts to bolt on the narrative of the supposedly humbled Wall Street banks on to Wall Street law firms. For all the parallels between banks and law firms, as much divides as unites them. Law still doesn’t attract risk-takers; law firms don’t need anything like the capital of modern investment banks and they have little ability to create the short-term illusion of profitability that played havoc in the securities industry post-2007.