The Law Firm Bubble Bursts


by Conor Friedersdorf

The New York Times chronicles the terrible job prospects at big law firms. I feel for this year's graduates, especially folks like this guy:

After he lost his job as a television reporter two years ago, Derek Fanciullo considered law school, thinking it was a historically sure bet. He took out “a ferocious amount of debt,” he said $210,000, to be exact and enrolled last September in the School of Law at New York University.

“It was thought to be this green pasture of stability, a more comfortable life,” said Mr. Fanciullo, who had heard that 90 percent of N.Y.U. law graduates land jobs at firms, and counted on that to repay his loans. “It was almost written in stone that you’ll end up in a law firm, almost like a birthright.”

Despite my empathy for people whose plans were ruined by changing economic circumstances, however, I cannot help but think that overall the decline of big law firms is a great thing for society. It is perverse that every year America sends thousands of its brightest young people to be paid six figures to pore over discovery documents in lawsuits between big corporations. The billable hour is itself an absurd method for determining the price tag of legal services in many situations where it is used.

And the lavish spending law firms rain down on summer associates is basically a status game where everyone invests lots of resources to convince people with degrees from prestigious schools that theirs is the best wood paneled office in which to be miserable in subsequent years, a transaction that somehow allows the firm to charge a client $500 an hour for a Harvard graduate to do highlighting that any halfway intelligent paralegal could manage if only American lawyering weren't a risk-averse, liability obsessed cartel.
Jump to comments

2006-2011 archives for The Daily Dish, featuring Andrew Sullivan

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Why Are Americans So Bad at Saving Money?

The US is particularly miserable at putting aside money for the future. Should we blame our paychecks or our psychology?

Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus


The Death of Film

You'll never hear the whirring sound of a projector again.


How to Hunt With Poison Darts

A Borneo hunter explains one of his tribe's oldest customs: the art of the blowpipe


A Delightful, Pixar-Inspired Cartoon

An action figure and his reluctant sidekick trek across a kitchen in search of treasure.


I Am an Undocumented Immigrant

"I look like a typical young American."


Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion