Saturday, April 25, 2009

Changes to Come...And What They May Mean for New Law Grads

Change is in the air.

An opinion piece in the New York Times recently reported, "The economic downturn is hitting the legal world hard. American Lawyer is calling it “the fire this time” and warning that big firms may be hurtling toward “a paradigm-shifting, blood-in-the-suites” future."

Still, the piece went on, "The silver lining, if there is one, is that the legal world may be inspired to draw blueprints for the 21st century."

According to an article in the ABA Journal in which the Times article is referenced, three major areas of change are imminent:

"• Compensation. The out-of-whack pay chasm in which BigLaw lawyers make $160,000 to start while state and local prosecutors start in the mid-to-upper $40,000s is likely to change, with high salaries being reined in. "One industry-watcher says it could fall as low as $100,000. And fewer firms will feel the need to pay the top salary," the Times notes.
• Tuition. Between 1990 and 2003, private law school educations costs rose at nearly three times the rate of consumer prices, with the average graduate now leaving with more than $80,000 in debt. Expect a correction on tuition and more law schools to follow Northwestern University's two-year law school model.
• Curriculum. There may also be pressure on law schools, because of the economic conditions, to retool "sometimes-aimless second and third years" of courses to be more practical in nature, with more emphasis on going into nonlegal careers."

What's your take on the article? Do you agree that major changes are imminent in the legal profession and the way lawyers do business? If so, what does that all mean for recent law grads and current law students--in particular, in what ways will they have to adapt in order to navigate and thrive among these changes?

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