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Lawyer Bubble In this meticulously researched and passionately argued book, Harper exposes the dirty secrets behind the legal profession's malaise, disregard for new lawyers, and explains what steps can be taken to repair the damage before it's too late. Full description

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38 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A Sober Look at the Legal Profession 19 avril 2013
Par Samuel J. Sharp - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
This book started well enough, and it was immediately evident that Harper put a lot of effort into his research. His writing style is clear and his central argument even clearer: the greed and short-term thinking of law school deans and equity partners has wrecked a once noble profession. Harper marshals plenty of evidence and anecdotes to show that as big firm profits and law school revenues have increased, associates are less happy and students are saddled with higher debts and reduced career prospects.

Harper is not the first person to document these trends, but his diagnosis that greed at the top is the source of all the profession's evils is fairly unique. He sees an industry hell-bent on preying on young, uninformed future and present lawyers. While his highly-charged rhetoric reflects his passion, it also becomes grating over 208 pages. At times Harper is far too dismissive of those who disagree with him. For example, on pages 169-170 he labels two authors of a thoughtful study on law firm trends, "apologists for big firms" who imply "a deprivation of free will that understates [law firm partners'] power and disserves the profession." The authors of the paper did no such thing, and Harper's eagerness to misstate their paper is odd. On pages 157-158, Harper caustically responds to the idea of creating undergraduate law programs by declaring, "There's no reason to analyze the untested assumptions that underlie their analysis because, like too much legal scholarship and academic thought, the idea is insufficiently tethered to the real world of possibilities."

Harper charts the history of the growth of large law firms, but he does not recognize how the industry has changed in other ways. For example, he bemoans the increasing ratio of associates to partners at big firms, but he does not mention how changes in technology and globalization have created e-discovery and due diligence projects that require huge amounts of grunt work that is appropriately handled by young associates, not partners. He completely ignores the burgeoning contract attorney industry which in many ways supports some of his arguments. In short, in his haste to blame everything on greed, Harper may have overlooked some deeper and more meaningful industry trends. Arguing that every big firm should be exactly like Munger, Tolles & Olson fails to recognize the diversity of talents and client needs that characterize the profession.

To his credit, Harper has some interesting ideas of his own to increase the quality and volume of information available to prospective law students. Ultimately, this book will be most useful to prospective law students because it synthesizes many other critiques of the profession into one short yet revealing volume. Those already in the profession will likely be underwhelmed or unsurprised by Harper's analysis.
27 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The Lawyer Bubble 9 avril 2013
Par Michael H. Trotter - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Steven Harper's The Lawyer Bubble is an excellent book about the current state of the legal profession and where it may be headed. His thoughtful explanation of the collapse of several major American law firms starting with Findley Kumble and including Heller Erhman, Thelen, Howrey and Dewey does not exist elsewhere in print and is worth the cost of the book. In the process he identifies qualities that are lacking in many major firms that may lead to their collapse in the future.

Harper also addresses some of the significant impacts of technology on the competitive environment in the legal world, and the debacle of legal education in America. He presents fourteen proposals for "a meaningful course correction" in order to avoid Dewey like results. While each proposal is worthy of consideration and would be desirable, it is doubtful that they can be used to fundamentally change any major law firm that did not adopt these proposals years ago as the firm grew. Unaddressed is a further impediment to such changes--Model Rule 5.6 which makes every lawyer a free agent capable of moving at any time from one firm to another in response to a better offer. The ultimate issue may be how many of the major firms will change and survive and how many will be replaced by disruptive innovations in the delivery of legal services.

While Harper identifies two new forces outside the control of the big firms that are affecting the prospects of the major firms: outsourcing of electronic discovery and attorney temporary placement services, there is no mention of New Model law firms that have been created to function differently from the big firms while offering many competitive services at a lower cost. He rightly identifies the 50 year old law firm of Munger, Tolles & Olson as a great law firm worthy of emulation, but there is no prospect of another existing Am Law 200 firm morphing into a Munger Tolles from their present status because such a firm has to be build right from the beginning.

The current conditions and prospects of the legal profession in America are complex and it will be very difficult for any single book to address all of the issues facing lawyers, law firms and corporate law departments. Harper has done a superior job addressing many of them.

Michael H. Trotter, Author of "Profit and the Practice of Law--What's Happened to the Legal Profession," and "Declining Prospects--How Extraordinary Competition and Compensation Are Changing America's Major Law Firms"
21 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An Excellent Summary of the Problems With the Legal Profession 22 mai 2013
Par E. Clinton - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
In his 1993 book, The Lost Lawyer, the Dean of Yale Law School, Anthony Kronman lamented the changes in the legal profession, which, he believed had caused the collapse of the lawyer-statesman ideal. He worried that large firms had become too commercialized with highly specialized practice areas. He also worried that the ties that existed between law firms and lawyers were disappearing. Big firm lawyers were beginning to routinely move from one firm to another in search of higher salaries. Kronman was worried that all the lateral movement was weakening the culture of law firms and turning the law business into a greedy enterprise, with little nobility in it. He saw a dark future for the law business.

In the twenty-year period since 1993, almost every bad thing predicted by Dean Kronman came true. Big firms have grown so large that they have no cultural identity. Training for associates has disappeared. Firm partners are loyal only when they are well-paid. They leave firms when there is the slightest sign of trouble.

Twenty years later, Steven Harper has written The Lawyer Bubble, which discusses the one major development missed by Dean Kronman, the enormous overproduction of law graduates and the resulting misery of the young lawyers.

After a distinguished career trying cases, Harper retired from Kirkland and Ellis a few years ago. He has spent the last several years teaching and writing. Much of his writing centers on the problems of the legal profession. Harper writes a blog, known as The Belly of the Beast, which discusses large firms and law schools. The Lawyer Bubble is unique in that it compares and contrasts the problems of law schools and large law firms. Like Kronman, Harper does not think the legal profession is on a good course. He thinks things are bad and that they are getting worse.

Harper argues that the problems of both Law Schools and big firms stem from elevating short-term profitability at the expense of long-term goals. He argues that the law schools pursuit of greater revenues has allowed the total number of students to exceed the number of available jobs. In turn, the law firms have suffered because they have also pursued short-term goals, such as profits per partner (PPP) a measure of profitability made famous by the American Lawyer rankings. The American Lawyer ranks firms in many ways, but the main ranking tool is PPP, which encourages firms to have fewer equity partners and more associates and income partners. This process, in turn, leads to widespread dissatisfaction with the law firm life for most of the lawyers who work in large firms.

Harper is correct that the law schools also became greedy. They added too many students to the their classes. When graduates began suffering poor employment outcomes, many law schools engaged in Enron-style tactics in reporting their employment numbers. By managing the numbers the graduates employment track records were made to look far better than they really were. Ironically, Harper notes that many large firms have given false profit information to the American Lawyer to enhance their rankings and reputation. Thus, in his view, the entire profession has become corrupted - when the law schools start fudging employment numbers, their graduates have continued the process at large law firms. Law schools and firms pay lip service to "honesty" and "integrity" but do not follow those concepts in real life.

Harper's analysis of the problems with legal education is largely consistent with the argument made by Professor Brian Tamanaha in his 2011 book, Failing Law Schools.

The book unambiguously recognizes that there is a lawyer bubble - that there are far too many graduates from law school each year and that many of them are unable to find work or unable to find work that will allow them to repay their loans. Harper's analysis is unflinching and honest.

The problem is that law schools have become profit centers for Universities. Many law schools are required to "share" 25% of their revenue with the larger university. Thus, law school tuition supports the science lab and the art school in addition to the law school.

Harper notes that the average law school graduate has over $100,000 in law school student loan debt. Worse still, the average debt figures have been growing faster than inflation at the same time that students opportunities for employment and career satisfaction have begun to disappear. Harper's writing is lean and elegant:

Average law school debt for the graduating class of 2011 broke six figures, and that number has been growing in tandem with unemployment rates for new graduates. Even if a career in the law turns out to be the right path, the financial burden can be staggering. If the law ends up being the wrong path, then debt becomes the rock that Sisyphus had to push uphill for the rest of his life.

Harper correctly argues that the problems with legal education are the result of oversupply of graduates and government loans. Each year about one-half of the law school graduates find permanent work requiring bar passage. The other half are left to struggle in temporary positions or jobs outside the law business. Each time the law schools have expanded enrollment they have inflicted increasing misery on their graduates.

Sadly, the taxpayers are left footing the bill for law school student loans that graduates cannot repay.

One strength of this book is its analysis of the problems of large law firms, including several firms that imploded including Finley Kumble, Heller Ehrmann and, most famously, Dewey LeBeouf. In each case the firms tried to increase leverage by merging or adding lateral partners. This process worked very well for the equity partners, but it produced large-scale layoffs for the service partners and associates. When the firms ran into trouble, few of the new partners were loyal to the firms. Instead, those partners who had large client billings simply went to other firms and the three firms eventually filed for bankruptcy.

Harper describes the dissatisfaction of many large firm associates and the high turnover that this dissatisfaction creates. Harper discusses the huge and growing divide between the equity partner and income partner and he eloquently describes how the increased leverage in law firms (more employed lawyers and less equity holders) has destroyed any sense of culture in the firms. He recognizes that many students work hard in school only to join firms where they are miserable because of the long hours and the poor treatment they receive from partners.

In particular, Harper is critical of the recent trend for large firms to hire lateral partners from other firms. This has harmed the culture of many firms. If a partner joins a firm solely to obtain an increased salary, he is not likely to make any sacrifice to allow the firm to survive. Worse still, the partner who is searching for the highest paying position has no reason to mentor young associates or to show any loyalty to the institution. Thus, firms built by acquiring lateral partners often fail. When there is trouble in the economy or a client terminates the firm, the partners have little incentive to make shared sacrifices for the firm. Instead, the lateral partner is likely to brush up his resume and begin a new job search. Like Dewey LeBeouf, the firm will then collapse as the lateral partners find new places to work.

Harper urges firms to focus on culture, training young lawyers and reducing leverage. While those reforms have a short-term economic cost, they bring long-term economic benefits to the firms and the lawyers.

Harper is also highly critical of the billable hour, which contributes to large bills to clients and inefficient work by lawyers. He notes that the large firms typically require 2000 to 2200 billable hours for each associate and that the firms often pay bonuses for associates who bill more than 2000 hours.

In Harper's view, the billable hour causes problems. Lawyers are encouraged to work more hours on a matter, instead of being efficient. Law firms are encouraged to have more lawyers work on matters than are necessary. Worse still, the measure of associate productivity, hours, is really a measure of a lack of productivity. No one is rewarded for getting a job done at a modest cost. Because firms focus on hours billed, they are not able to focus on associate training. By contrast, fixed fees for tasks would encourage lawyers to drop discovery disputes and get the case ready for trial. Harper notes that in a recent bankruptcy case, 43 lawyers in one firm billed hours to the case at rates equal to or exceeding $1000. Worse still, the Supreme Court and lower courts have given the billable hour a stamp of legitimacy, which is unfair to clients and encourages waste and inefficiency.

Harper is correct that the legal profession is doing poorly. According to scholarly articles, about half of the recent graduates do not have income sufficient to pay their loans and live normal lives. Many other graduates are trapped in large firms by their students loans, so they are not able to devote their talents to public service because they cannot afford to.

My only criticism of the book is the discussion of possible reforms. In the first part of his book, Harper is bold and unflinching. When discusses possible reforms, he grows somewhat cautious and wary.

For law schools, Harper is unwilling to recommend the creation of a two-year program for law school, which could cut the costs of educating lawyers and, in turn, leave the young lawyers with more manageable debt loads. Harper does not discuss the proposal of some academics to make law an undergraduate major, thus eliminating law school all together.

Harper supports reasonable limits on student loans for law students. He also argues that loans from private lenders should be dischargeable in bankruptcy. In that fashion, lenders would have reason to worry about that the graduate would not repay the loan. Cautious lenders would decline to make loans to some students. This would reduce the lawyer bubble. Harper is a bit vague when it comes to recommending solutions to the lawyer bubble.

Everyone considering law school should read The Lawyer Bubble before they sign the paperwork for student loans. The student should consider what they want to do with the law degree. Most of all the student should recognize that the more debt they take on the more pressure they will have to join a large firm to earn enough money to pay that debt.

In sum, this is the finest book on the legal profession since The Lost Lawyer was published in 1993. The book is well-written and thoughtful. Perhaps the book's greatest strength is the strong moral voice of Steven Harper, who, like others before him, exhorts us to work together to improve our profession and pursue its highest ideals.

Edward X. Clinton, Jr.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Keen analysis of problems, no plausible solutions 22 juin 2014
Par John J. Olson - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Format Kindle
Harper does a fine job summarizing the problems of the legal profession, though he scarcely touches on the problems of people who need legal advice. Unfortunately, every one of the solutions he proposes requires self-sacrifice on the part of the very people who perpetuate the problems he points out. Will equity partners in Biglaw reduce their salaries and bonuses? Will they make it easier for associates to become equity partners, thus cutting their own pay? Will law professors and their deans admit fewer students, thus reducing their own salaries and cutting professors' jobs? Will law schools get honest about their graduates' career prospects and warn them about lawyers' common job dissatisfaction? Will U.S. News give up its profitable business of rating law schools? Harper wants student loans to be once again dischargeable in bankruptcy; has he forgotten why they were made undischargeable? Will the ABA give up its monopoly on law school accreditation? The people who profit from the legal industry's problem benefit so much from those problems that it is futile to expect them to adopt the solutions Harper proposes.
5 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
An Eye-Opener 10 mai 2013
Par George Bush - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
In 2012 we had a record number of law school graduates - over 46,000, chasing only 20,000 legal jobs - most of which don't pay enough to service their six-figure law-school debt. Thus, nine months after graduation, only half of 2011's class had long-term, full-time work requiring a law degree. We now have one lawyer for every 265 Americans, more than double the per-capita 1970 rate. This is an extraordinarily long way from equilibrium between supply and demand. One result is the implosion of august firms such as Dewey and LeBoeuf.

The decline in the market for lawyers has accelerated since the economic downturn of 2008 as corporate clients became less willing to sign off on huge legal bills. Thus, an increasing share of American legal work, especially relatively rote work like document review, is being shipped overseas or simply given to sophistical legal software. (Eg. Blackstone Discover helped analyze 1.5 million documents for less than $100,000, compared to a cost of $2.2 million in 1978 for reviewing six million documents in an antitrust case.)

People go to law school thinking they're going to change the world, become major pedestals in the community, right major wrongs in our society, and at least live modestly well-off. Harper tells readers that actual practice turns out quite differently because the profession have become deeply troubled. Consistent with that conclusion, CareerBliss recently rated 'Associate Attorney' as the 'unhappiest job in America,' behind customer service associate, and clerk. (Real estate agents came out on top.)

Harper also blames law school deans' lack of candor when recruiting prospective students, federal government guaranteeing all private and public student loans,

Bottom-Line: Law schools have been operating on the basis of a nonsensical economic model, requiring most students to borrow more money than it makes sense for them to do, given their career prospects. That same error probably also exists in most other academic/vocational fields. Ergo, Mr. Harper's logic probably extends to the entire college/university sector.
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