There are countless articles regarding the change of the legal market. We hear that law schools are overpriced and jobs are drying up. This creates too many lawyers being out of work or underpaid for work without the ability to pay back loans, if they had them. Statistics show that youngsters should not go to law school to enable them to pursue a legal career. Statistics regarding cost-benefit analysis. But why is that? Many can blame it on the recession; hourly rates being attacked by companies; and, no one wanting to pay new attorneys huge rates without any tangible experience. But, this is a situation created by lawyers themselves with the aide of national economic trends. Lawyers who went from big firms or small firms alike over to in-house corporate counsel (most have the big pockets that can afford law firm rates) and governmental relations offices, then started protesting firm rates in order to appease the company or corporation. Lawyers only thought to attack hourly wages because of their inside knowledge of firms’ billables. Now, firms are forced to do more with less, and they are. Moreover, it’s putting a tight squeeze on students and the talented people to fight for positions adequate to compensate them for the amount of money spent for law school. But there is another issue that I have not yet seen mentioned: legislators are quietly limiting the roles that attorneys can play–at least concerning litigation. Just look to the American Invents Act and the Affordable Care Act.
Those laws have changed the format for lawyers to earn a living. With the American Invents Act, America now has a first to file system. That means there will not be the possible litigation potential that was in place with the first to invent system. Patent attorneys could rack up billables like crazy there arguing over the inception of an idea and submitting evidence to prove it; but now it’s just a matter of who put the application in first. The Affordable Care Act, prevents many private rights of action. Moreover, when an individual wants to protest a coverage issue, they have to exhaust all administrative procedures through Health and Human Services Agency, before they can have an external review by a court. This could potentially create more business for some lawyers who can go through those procedures, but more often than not people will be pushed about by those procedures or die from an illness before the can have their day in court. Therefore, just using these two Acts as examples, we see that legislation has cut down on the ability for attorneys to actively advocate of behalf of clients because there is no longer enforcement provisions for that. There are pros and cons to everything, but as this pertains to the legal market, it is not the greatest.
The best and the brightest are being run out and or punked-out of being lawyers based on law school costs and grading systems that directly correlates to a student’s ability earn certain grades in order for them to graduate then be able to
eat earn a commensurate living. This isn’t solely because a recession hit, and firms learned to do more with less. First year associates still exist and still charge for hours worked. There is just less money and hours to go around. I posit that the real blame goes to Governmental Relations departments of corporations that are run by attorneys for the most part, and definitely General Counsel offices. It’s clear that attorneys’ chickens are coming home to roost on the successor generation because of how the money tree is being pruned. The money is still out there, it’s just not for the attorneys anymore.