I was asked the other day by the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin to comment on a survey conducted by Altman Weil. I did so, and reviewed the resulting article today. The article, which I have only in hard copy, includes this statement by Bryan Schwartz, the chairman of Levenfeld Pearlstein LLC:
"I think the middle is going to get gutted."
To put his thought in context, here’s what the article said:
"Schwartz’s theory is that the law firm model will shift to match changes he said were seen in the last 10 years in accounting firms. That shift will mean fewer leaders at the top of law firms and more young people churning out work at the bottom, Schwartz said. “I think the middle is going to get gutted,” he said."
Really? Clients who are unwilling to pay for new associates because they add no value will now do so? The lawyers whose judgment and experience bring value to the clients–those in the middle–are jettisoned and clients will go along? I think not. The fact is that law firms are adjusting themselves to be advocates and counselors, while companies like Novus and Practical Law Company are taking over the process and content work previously done (at enormous cost) by law firms. This is the adjustment that is causing the economic squeeze on firms–the process and content piece of the pie has been the most lucrative and clients are realizing that they get as good or better work product from companies who specialize in those specific areas. To the extent there is a “gutting,” it will be at the young lawyer end of the job spectrum.
To quote my friend, Ed Reeser, “that’s my opinion. I could be wrong.”