“The Age of Anxiety”? Perhaps well-justified.

Where does this leave us?

  • Trust has never been more important, within the partnership and running up and down from top to bottom.
  • Leadership matters more than ever.
  • That in turn means strategy matters more than ever, and knowing who you are has morphed from nice-to-have to business imperative.
  • Rigor and discipline in execution are now table stakes. This is tough in autonomy-seeking partnerships, we know; get used to it, folks.
  • Glue matters.

“Will we see more large law firm failures?,” we’re frequently asked, usually to the delight of the questioner, as if this were a novel or insightful query. We usually demur, but here’s the real answer, Dear Reader: Of course we will.

Not because the BigLaw model is broken or inherently flawed, but because BigLaw firms are made of fallible human beings (see above), because competitive rigors have never been tightening faster, and because the margins for error have never been slimmer. Of course we’ll see more failures. With luck we’ll also see more births (Quinn Emanuel, Boies Schiller, Kobre & Kim, just for instance).

The more interesting question is how we’ll adapt to beginning to look the tiniest bit more like the rest of the mainstream economy, where firms are born, grow, shrink, die, and morph into something new, every single day.

Let me leave you with this question:

Is what you care about the survival of firms as we know them, or the survival of our notion of exceptionalism as a profession and an industry?

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