Tag Archives: Am Law 200

Meet the CTO of haistack.ai and creator of Haistack – Law Firm: A Q&A with Michael Heise

Am Law 200 firms will soon have access to an innovative new AI-powered recruiting tool called Haistack – Law Firm. Michael Heise has led development of the product, in partnership with Lateral Link. Ahead of the official launch on September 18, Lateral Link sat down with Mike to talk about the path that led him to develop Haistack – Law Firm.

LL: Let’s start with a quick description of Haistack – Law Firm. Why should firms be interested?

MH: Haistack – Law Firm uses machine learning to identify the best candidates for a specific attorney role. We aggregate publicly available attorney, firm, and law firm job data from across the internet, and we enrich it with proprietary Lateral Link data. From this data, we illustrate connections between a candidate and a firm and estimate the strength of the fit. These connections also suggest the most effective avenues for reaching out to a candidate who has not yet applied. In addition, we show firms which members of their current attorney pool have profiles that are in high demand in the broader lateral market. This enables firms to take affirmative steps to retain the most scarce talent.

LL: You worked for years in software development before you entered the legal field. How did you first get into software? 

MH: I graduated from the University of Maryland in 1997 with a Business Information Systems degree. I was in the Marine Corps Reserves, so I had a connection to the government. I combined those interests by joining a government contractor out of college, writing software. Over the next 15 years, I worked for both government and private sector clients, everything from the State Department to the NASDAQ. That variety was great because I was able to take lessons from one sector and cross-pollinate them into the next. In 2009 I earned my MBA from Maryland with a focus in Entrepreneurship. And then in 2013 I took a full-time software development program manager role with the DC Police Department, where I spent nearly three years.

LL: What do you like best about working in software?

MH: I love making cumbersome processes more efficient. With software you can take a task that previously took days to complete and reduce that time to seconds. I also enjoy solving the puzzles that you confront when writing software. There’s no shortage of hard problems to tackle.

LL: What brought you into the world of law firms?

MH: I was thinking about getting back into the private sector, and in 2016 my wife was a law student, so that made me curious about law firms. I applied for a role at an Am Law 30 firm and spent nearly three years there as an Application Development Manager, followed by three years as a Senior Manager of Software Development at an Am Law 20 firm. Meanwhile, my wife now practices at an Am Law 50 firm, so in a way law has become a family business for us.

LL: What did your time at Am Law firms teach you about their software needs?

MH: First, security and data privacy are critical. Law firms have a reputation for being slow to adopt technology, but it makes sense after you’ve come to appreciate the liability risk of the information they hold. My other big takeaway came from working on system implementations that were 12- or 18-month projects costing millions of dollars. They involved intricate work to export data, massage it, and then import the data into the new system. Those projects reinforced for me the value of turnkey solutions that streamline the user experience. I decided that if I was going to develop software for law firm customers in the future, I would put a premium on making it as turnkey as possible.

LL: And that’s exactly what you’ve done with Haistack – Law Firm, right?

MH: Yes! Users can log in with LinkedIn, Google or Microsoft credentials tied to their firm email. You don’t even have to remember a password. Haistack will recognize which firm you belong to and will automatically display data customized to that firm.

LL: Why were you the perfect person to develop this product?

MH: Certainly I’ve had significant exposure to major law firms, learning not only about their software preferences and constraints but also gaining an understanding of the broader culture. My prior familiarity with the industry is only part of the story. I’ve learned a huge amount about the recruiting process through my collaboration with Lateral Link in developing Haistack – Law Firm. And I’ve had the distinct advantage of being able to draw on 15 years of Lateral Link data. For example, where we know that a firm has considered and rejected a candidate in the past, Haistack is not going to suggest that candidate to the same firm again. So the core strength isn’t just my background, it’s really the complementary assets that have come together to form the Haistack partnership.

In a rapidly evolving legal landscape, the alignment of technology with the intricacies of the legal sector remains pivotal. Michael Heise’s unique journey—from software development in various industries to the heart of law firms—has equipped him to pioneer solutions like Haistack – Law Firm. With its impending launch, Am Law 200 firms are on the cusp of an AI-driven revolution in recruitment. Drawing upon a rich blend of Heise’s software expertise, firsthand insights from top-tier law firms, and the robust data of Lateral Link, Haistack promises to redefine how firms identify, recruit, and retain the brightest legal talents. As law becomes increasingly tech-driven, innovators like Heise are ushering in a new era of efficiency, precision, and excellence.

Navigating Attorney Lateral Moves: Key Trends Shaping Today’s Legal Landscape

The legal landscape is continuously evolving, and Lateral Link’s extensive research into the trends and shifts in the United States’ legal market offers valuable insights. As we explore these findings, we’ll discuss the implications for both law firms and individual attorneys while highlighting specific firms that have been active in the lateral market.

Talent Wars: The Surge in Partner Hires

Between 2021, and the end of 2022, Am Law 200 firms made waves by hiring over 3,600 new partners. These talent wars at the partner and associate levels were the talk of 2022, but the origin of these new partners captured even more interest. For example, Latham & Watkins, and Kirkland & Ellis have been particularly active in recruiting lateral hires, reflecting a broader trend of expansion and increased competition for top talent. Across the Am Law 200, nearly 30% of all partner additions came from unranked firms, while just 12% came from Am Law’s Second Hundred firms.

Interestingly, Tier 1 Am Law firms (firms ranked 1-50 in the 2022 Am Law 200) primarily sourced new partner hires from Am Law 100 firms (59%). For instance, Paul Weiss and Skadden have strengthened their presence in the New York market, while Cooley and Morrison & Foerster have been active in expanding their teams in California. These top-tier firms added more new partners from unranked firms (11%) than from Am Law Second Hundred firms (9%).

Geographical Insights and Gender Dynamics

New York, Washington, D.C., and London remained the most active markets for partner hires. However, the percentage of Am Law 200 partner hires in emerging legal hubs such as Salt Lake City, Nashville, and Austin exceeded 10% of all Am Law 200 partners in each market, indicating growth in these regions. Firms like DLA Piper and Baker McKenzie have made significant hires in the Corporate sector, while Wilson Sonsini and Fish & Richardson have bolstered their Intellectual Property practices.

In terms of gender dynamics, men accounted for seven out of every ten partner hires. Notably, 78% of all women partner hires were made by Am Law 100 firms, demonstrating a potential focus on diversity and inclusion within these top-tier organizations.

Report Breakdown: Hiring Metrics

The report provides a detailed breakdown of hiring practices based on Am Law ranking tiers, Revenue Per Lawyer (RPL), Profit Per Equity Partner (PEP), and gender-based metrics. By examining these hiring trends, law firms can gain valuable insights into the competitive landscape and make strategic decisions to strengthen their market presence and service offerings.

Implications for Law Firms and Attorneys

The data from Lateral Link’s research has several implications for law firms and attorneys.

Strategic growth and competition: The increase in lateral moves highlights the need for law firms to plan strategically to remain competitive. By expanding their practice areas and market presence, firms can better position themselves in the evolving legal landscape.

Talent acquisition and retention: As competition for top talent intensifies, law firms need to prioritize both talent acquisition and retention. This can be achieved through competitive compensation packages, flexible work arrangements, and professional development opportunities.

The importance of diversity and inclusion: With an increased focus on hiring, law firms must also prioritize diversity and inclusion initiatives to attract and retain a diverse pool of attorneys.

Emerging legal markets: As the legal industry continues to grow and change, law firms must keep an eye on emerging markets such as Salt Lake City, Nashville, and Austin, and adapt their strategies to capitalize on new opportunities in these regions.

Navigating attorney lateral moves and understanding the key trends impacting law firms and legal professionals today are essential for success in the ever-changing legal landscape. By recognizing growth in specific practice areas, geographical hotspots, and the increasing demand for in-house and government roles, law firms and attorneys can adapt and thrive in the evolving market.

Embracing technology and innovation: Law firms need to keep up with advancements in technology and leverage innovative solutions to streamline operations, enhance client services, and stay ahead of the competition. Firms like Orrick and Reed Smith have been particularly proactive in incorporating technology and innovation in their practices.

Cross-border opportunities: With globalization and the expansion of multinational businesses, law firms must focus on cross-border transactions and disputes, and develop a diverse team with the ability to work seamlessly across jurisdictions. Firms like White & Case and Baker McKenzie have established themselves as global players by expanding their cross-border capabilities.

Focus on client needs: As clients’ needs become increasingly complex and specialized, law firms must develop niche practice areas and expertise to cater to these demands. For example, Winston & Strawn have developed a strong expertise in antitrust and sports law, while Ropes & Gray have made a name for themselves in private equity and asset management.

Collaborative culture: Creating a culture of collaboration and knowledge-sharing is crucial for law firms to foster innovation and deliver better results for clients. Firms like Goodwin Procter and Hogan Lovells have embraced a collaborative approach, enabling them to provide comprehensive solutions to clients across various industries.

Succession planning: Law firms must have a long-term vision and plan for the future, including effective succession planning and leadership development. By grooming the next generation of leaders, firms like Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and Sullivan & Cromwell can ensure a smooth transition and continued growth.

Understanding the key trends and adapting to the dynamic legal landscape is crucial for law firms and legal professionals to remain competitive and successful. By being proactive in their approach to talent acquisition, retention, diversity, inclusion, and strategic growth, law firms can rise to the challenges and capitalize on the opportunities that lie ahead in the ever-evolving legal market. As you navigate these challenges and opportunities, Lateral Link is here to guide you through your journey, offering expert advice and professional support to help you make the best decisions for your career and practice. With a deep understanding of the industry’s complexities and trends, Lateral Link is your trusted partner in shaping your future in the legal profession.

2023 Am Law 100 Rankings: A Comprehensive Breakdown

For top Biglaw firms, 2021 was an incredible year: gross revenue rose nearly 15%, while profits per equity partner grew almost 20%. Those growth rates were obviously unsustainable, so there is no great surprise that the financial metrics reported in the just-released 2023 edition of the Am Law 100 indicate a return to earth. 2022 was a roughly flat—for many firms, somewhat down—year. But considering the lofty heights reached in 2021, that actually isn’t so bad.

Collectively, in 2022, the AmLaw 100 attained:

  • Total revenue: $130.8 billion, up by 2.7%. 
  • Average revenue per lawyer: $1.16 million, down by 1.9%.
  • Profits per equity partner: $2.56 million, down by 3.7%.

For context, let’s compare the 2022 growth rates to the remarkably strong growth of 2021 and 2020, as well as the more typical rates of 2019:

Positive revenue growth paired with declining RPL implies that increases in headcount played a material role. Indeed, total AmLaw 100 headcount rose 4.7% (approximately 5,000 additional lawyers), with equity partnerships expanding by 1% (+207 equity partners) and the nonequity partner pool growing by 6.4% (+1,175 nonequity partners). This is consistent with our observations of the 2022 lateral market: even as deal work took a hit, 2022 was a reasonably strong year for lateral hiring.

Let’s now take a closer look at the three most important metrics — gross revenue, revenue per lawyer, and profits per partner — and the top 10 firms in each category.

Gross Revenue

Here are the top 10 firms in the 2023 Am Law 100 rankings, ranked by their gross revenue in 2022. You can access the full list here.

Kirkland & Ellis once again led the pack, widening its lead over Latham & Watkins, which maintained its second-place position despite a decline in revenue. There was little change to the top group, with Gibson Dunn entering the top 10 and Hogan Lovells dropping down to the 12th slot.

Most of the top 10 firms achieved revenue gains, but this was not representative of the broader Am Law 100. Although overall Am Law 100 revenue increased in 2022, 59 of the 100 firms suffered a revenue decline. This was a marked reversal from 2021, when every Am Law 100 firm increased revenue year-over-year.

Revenue Per Lawyer

Here are the top 10 firms in the 2023 Am Law 100 rankings based on revenue per lawyer. You can access the full list here.

It was not a great year for revenue per lawyer among the Am Law elite, highlighted by the 12% declines for Davis Polk and Simpson Thacher. Wachtell, Sullivan & Cromwell, Cravath, and Kirkland maintained their positions at the top of the table despite RPL decreases. Proskauer was the only new entrant into the top 10, with Quinn Emanuel falling to the 13th slot due to a 13% RPL decline—a notable hit in a relatively strong year for litigation.

Profits Per Equity Partner

And finally, the ranking we’ve all been waiting for: the top 10 firms by profits per equity partner. You can access the full list here.

The big news is that Kirkland has overtaken perennial champion Wachtell as leader of the PPEP ranking. Wachtell made history in 2021 as the first firm to exceed the $8 million PPEP mark. But a 13% drop in 2022—in the face of Kirkland’s 2% increase—has dislodged Wachtell from the top spot.

Wachtell’s percentage decline is not the highest among the top 10: that title goes to Davis Polk, which suffered a whopping 21% drop in PPEP. In the process, Davis Polk fell from the third slot to the fifth. New entrants into the top 10 were Skadden and Gibson Dunn. They displaced Cravath, which fell to 13th thanks to a 19% PPEP decline, and Cahill, which fell out of the Am Law 100 entirely.

In 2022, 9 Am Law 100 firms achieved profits per equity partner above $5 million (compared to 14 in 2021 and 6 in 2020). It wasn’t the year some firms might have hoped for, but even so, being an Am Law 100 equity partner in 2022 was still substantially more lucrative than prior to the pandemic.

Gain further insights and analysis on the 2023 Am Law 100 rankings by tuning in to our latest episode of Movers, Shakers & Rainmakers. This engaging Lateral Link podcast offers a deeper understanding of the legal industry landscape.

Female Representation in Biglaw Partnerships — A Long Way to Go

Disproportionate attrition of female attorneys in Biglaw is hardly a new problem. As a 2019 ABA and ALM report on the issue noted, “entering associate classes have been comprised of approximately 45% women for several decades.” Indeed, at 5 of the top 20 Am Law firms (by gross revenue), female lawyers now constitute a majority of associates:

Firm% of Female Associates
Baker McKenzie53.4%
Norton Rose Fulbright53.0%
Morgan Lewis50.8%
Hogan Lovells50.1%
Jones Day50.1%

But when it comes to partnerships, representation of women is substantially lower. Among those top 20 Am Law firms, here are the four with the greatest proportion of female partners:

Firm% of Female Partners
Ropes & Gray31.8%
Morgan Lewis28.8%
Baker McKenzie27.9%
Jones Day27.3%

Ropes & Gray is the standout performer, as the only top 20 firm with greater than 30% female representation in its partnership. Interestingly, unlike the other firms in this table, Ropes & Gray does not rank especially highly for female associate representation: only 44.8% of the firm’s associates are women.

And here are the four with the lowest female representation in the partnership:

Firm% of Female Partners
Gibson Dunn20.9%
White & Case20.8%
Simpson Thacher20.2%
Davis Polk17.9%

Gibson Dunn is an interesting case in that the firm last year elected its first-ever female Chair, Barbara Becker. Gibson Dunn’s announcement of the appointment emphasized diversity and inclusion, noting that Ms. Becker created the firmwide Diversity Committee. It will be interesting to see if Ms. Becker succeeds in boosting the firm’s female partner representation above the current below-average level.

Any way you cut it, Biglaw certainly has a long way to go. Should that be cause for despair? Not necessarily. The good news is that firms are well aware of the problem and at least some of them are making a strong push to fix it, even if progress is slower than we would wish.

How to increase female representation — and retain female partners

There are a number of ways that law firms are pushing to increase female representation in their partnerships. Flexibility is a key theme. Many female Biglaw attorneys are working mothers with other schedules to meet outside of work. A one-size-fits-all approach to hours expectations (including office presence, billable hours, and business development targets) can disproportionately drive away women. We speak to many high-powered female attorneys who feel compelled to leave the law firm grind because they also want to raise a family, and they have concluded that it is impossible to succeed at both. When law firms incorporate more women- and family-friendly policies firmwide (not just for partners!) it paves the way for female associates to first rise to the equity partnership and then succeed there — both inside and outside the office.

Increasing female representation in partnerships is not enough. Law firms must also offer a solid support structure so as to not leave women high and dry once they attain equity status. Providing adequate and equitable associate and administrative support goes a long way in retaining female partners and promoting their longevity. In addition, establishing vibrant Women’s Initiatives with strong leadership and defined budgets is one way to support female partnership (and all female attorneys).  And don’t forget the men — they need to be involved!  Male participation in Women’s Initiatives is crucial in demonstrating that the entire firm stands behind a diverse partnership and supports female advancement.  

Pitfalls to keep in mind

Law firms should be careful not to simply promote women to non-equity partner status and assume that’s good enough. Not all partnership roles are created equal. These days, so many firms have deviated from the one-tier structure of partnership, such that non-equity partnership often amounts to what used to be called Counsel. When there are several tiers of partnership, it creates additional obstacles to attaining the ultimate goal of equity.

Law firm leadership should also be aware that non-billable requirements often disproportionately take women away from billable work as compared to their male counterparts. For example, for some reason female attorneys are especially likely to participate on committees. Women’s Initiatives and other firm programs are important, but they present a Catch-22 that must be acknowledged and monitored. Firms should be careful not to unfairly assign a disproportionate amount of non-billable tasks to female partners or just assume they will take on an extra load. This is something we often hear our female candidates complain about, and it is an easy fix once the problem has been identified. But firm leadership must first be cognizant of the pattern.

A Detailed Breakdown Of The 2022 Am Law 100 Rankings

So how did Biglaw do in 2021, coming off its shockingly strong performance in 2020? In short: better. A lot better. Based on the financial metrics reported this week in the latest edition of the Am Law 100, the recent round of Biglaw salary increases makes perfect sense. Sure, most firms achieved record gross revenue, revenue per lawyer, and profits per equity partner. But that’s true in a typical good year. What made 2021 such a blowout is that many firms dramatically accelerated their growth rates on those metrics as compared to 2020 — a year that was itself hailed as a stunning success. Any way you look at it, 2021 was truly a year to remember for the Biglaw elite.

Collectively, here’s what the Am Law 100 achieved in 2021 (as noted by Patrick Smith in his summary of the data):

  • Total revenue: $127.4 billion, up by 14.8%. 
  • Average revenue per lawyer: $1.18 million, up by 12.5%.
  • Profits per equity partner: $2.66 million, up by 19.4%.

To appreciate just how good those growth rates are, let’s compare them to the strong growth of 2020 and the more typical rates in 2019:

Part of the impressive profit growth can be explained by attorneys working harder. Based on data from the 61 firms that submitted billing figures to the American Lawyer, hours billed rose 5.7% relative to 2020. Meanwhile, headcount in the Am Law 100 was up just 2.1%. As we at Lateral Link can attest, firms were eager to add talent in 2021, but growing the ranks was a challenge in the face of intense competition.

Let’s now take a closer look at the three key metrics — gross revenue, revenue per lawyer, and profits per partner — and the top 10 firms in each category.

Gross Revenue

Here are the top 10 firms in the 2022 Am Law 100 rankings, ranked by their gross revenue in 2021. You can access the full list here.

Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins once again led the pack, not only maintaining their #1 and #2 slots but also increasing revenue at faster rates than the other top 10 firms. The composition of the top group was fairly stable, with Ropes & Gray riding a 22% growth rate into the top 10 and Jones Day falling out of it, despite increasing revenue by 10%.

Revenue growth was strong across the board, with every Am Law 100 firm enjoying an increase (as compared to 26 firms that suffered revenue declines in 2020). Remarkably, 63 firms increased revenue by at least 10% and 18 were up by at least 20%.

Revenue Per Lawyer

Here are the top 10 firms in the 2022 Am Law 100 rankings based on revenue per lawyer. You can access the full list here.

Seven of the top ten firms increased revenue per lawyer by double digits (as compared to four in 2020). Once again, Wachtell and Sullivan & Cromwell took the top two spots. Davis Polk cooled somewhat after its market-leading 22% RPL growth in 2020. Cravath impressed with its rise from from #10 to #3 (mirroring the jump that Davis Polk achieved in 2020). Quinn Emanuel and Paul, Weiss ascended into the top 10, displacing Cahill Gordon and Debevoise.

Profits Per Equity Partner

And finally, everyone’s favorite ranking: the top 10 firms by profits per equity partner. You can access the full list here.

As always, Wachtell tops the list, this year exceeding $8 million in PPEP for the first time. Kirkland and Davis Polk each cracked the $7 million mark. Sullivan & Cromwell leapfrogged Paul, Weiss and Simpson Thacher to claim the #4 slot. Broadly speaking, the top 10 was fairly stable: the only firm to drop out was Debevoise, which grew PPEP by 10% but was no match for Latham’s 26% growth.

Overall, 14 firms now have profits per equity partner above $5 million (compared to six in 2020). Consistent with the long-running “rich get richer” theme in Biglaw, PPEP growth was strongest at the top of the Am Law 100. Whereas the top quartile increased PPEP by 22.7%, the bottom quartile of the Am Law 100 managed only a 7.7% increase. Still, no matter where their firm stood in the rankings, most Am Law 100 partners would be hard pressed to complain about 2021.

Why Leave Biglaw To Form A Boutique?

If law practice were a normal business, this would make little sense. In theory, larger firms should be more profitable per partner than smaller firms because a large firm can spread its fixed costs of operation over a larger pool of lawyers, lowering per-lawyer cost. The move to form boutiques seems to violate the basic principle of economies of scale.

But law is not a normal business. As we have previously explored, the legal profession is remarkably fragmented relative to other professional services fields. It is clear that standard economies of scale logic does not explain law firm industry structure.

We see four central factors driving the boutique boom: founder autonomy to chart strategy, avoidance of client conflicts, the opportunity to limit overhead investment, and freedom from ongoing obligations to retired partners.

Strategic autonomy

Boutique founders value the ability to chart their own strategy and run the show. A rainmaker in a typical Biglaw firm can be expected to have a more influential voice than the average partner, but the fact remains that major decisions require some degree of consensus, and the status quo tends to prevail.

Take alternative fee arrangements, for example. Boutiques generally have embraced flat-fee or other alternative structures much more readily than their Biglaw peers. That shift is a lot easier to execute when a firm is controlled by a small group of partners who work in the same practice area and are operating on a relatively long time horizon.

Boutiques can also more easily limit themselves to competing only for higher-margin work. When you make no pretense of being a full-service firm, and you have no legacy low-margin practices encumbering you, there is little reason to bring on equity partners whose revenue contribution would reduce the average.

Conflict avoidance

In their public statements, boutique founders tend to highlight the appeal of escaping the conflicts entanglements of Biglaw. It sounds more noble than “I’m expecting to make way more money.” But in all seriousness, freedom from conflicts can be important. It is a frustrating experience to be in line to represent a client in a significant matter, only to find out that your firm has a conflict that seems entirely tangential but nevertheless requires you to decline the work.

No bloated overhead

If law firms were managed to maximize profits, overhead considerations would counsel against forming a boutique. All law firms must incur some level of fixed cost in order to operate. Consider IT costs. Properly managed, the amount spent on IT per lawyer should be materially smaller at a 1000-lawyer Biglaw firm than at a 10-lawyer boutique. Similar economies of scale should exist for real estate expenses.

And yet, boutique founders routinely cite reduced overhead as an advantage of the boutique model. This is an indictment of large firms’ spending decisions. Historically, there has been a cultural assumption among the Biglaw elite that fancy offices on the highest floors of the most prestigious towers are a necessary expense, both as a status symbol for clients and as a recruiting tool for attorney talent. Boutiques have illustrated that there is reason to doubt this assumption. Even before the pandemic made every law firm question its real estate needs, boutique founders realized that they could operate successfully with a considerably smaller office footprint.

Here we again see the value of the autonomy discussed above. It is easier for a small group of founding partners to agree to dispense with some of the traditional trappings of Biglaw office space than to drive consensus among a large partnership to make substantial cost cuts.

No retirement payments

The final factor is likely the least intuitive, especially for lawyers who are not yet partners: the burden of payments to a firm’s retired partnership. Biglaw firms vary in the generosity of annuities offered to retirees, but it is common for a retired partner to be paid in perpetuity something like one-third of the partner’s average compensation in the final five years of service.

As life expectancy has increased, these generous payouts have become an ever-growing drag on Biglaw profits. Imagine you are a relatively young and successful partner. You could spend the next two decades dutifully contributing to the pockets of your retired forebears and hoping that you will receive a similar deal in your old age. Or you could leave now, found your own boutique, and keep that portion of your billings for yourself. In a world in which even partners who stay in Biglaw are likely to make multiple lateral moves over the course of their careers, it is increasingly difficult to convince current partners that bearing the costs of retirement payments is a worthy investment.

Conclusion: Biglaw must reform its cost structure

Unless Biglaw firms take seriously the signals that the boutique boom is sending, they can expect escalating losses of their most productive partner talent. There is of course a limit to the reforms that Biglaw firms can undertake: the autonomy and conflicts factors are particularly hard to counter. But on cost control, the ball is in Biglaw’s court. And in the wake of the pandemic, the largest firms have a golden opportunity to reimagine their business models in fundamental ways.

Biglaw firms need to take a hard look at all elements of their cost structure, with real estate and retired partner compensation at the top of the list. To that end, now would be a great time to shift to more professional administration by trained management professionals, rather than untrained lawyers engaging in administration as a part-time, supplemental duty.

Biglaw firms have advantages that boutiques cannot easily match, including strong brands and the ability to cross-sell work among multiple practices. But without significant reform on the cost side, Biglaw will continue to lose ground to boutiques.