I look forward to Ribstein’s next paper, teased in this post:
I predict the next step in the evolution of corporate legal services will be the mutation of in-house lawyers themselves. Instead of corporations simply bringing law firms within their walls, they will spread legal expertise throughout the organization — what I refer to in the Wisconsin paper as “embedded lawyers.”
These developments have significant implications for the market for corporate legal services. Law firms have managed to survive for decades on a business model that enables them to charge corporate clients hundreds of dollars an hour more for their lawyers’ services than the firms are paying. The difference, of course, is profits to the partners. Corporations are now competing away these profits.
Needless to say, law graduates and law schools will see the effects of this competition between in-house and outside law firms. At the same time that law grads are seeing fewer corporate jobs they may also be seeing lower wages for the jobs that are available.
And this will disrupt the way that lawyer recruiting occurs–the prestige of big law schools will no longer mean as much when corporations are trying to cut costs:
Moreover, applicants for these in-house jobs will have to meet corporate specs. Under the old model, law firms hired generalists from the best schools and trained them. Corporations hired some of the better ones a few years out. Now corporations are looking to hire cheaper lawyers right out of law school. They’re looking for graduates who don’t need the law firm apprenticeship.
The law schools that will win the corporate job placement derby will be the ones that can provide some of the training law firms used to provide. In other words, while law schools seem to think they need to teach their graduates where to find the courthouse, the biggest need will be those who understand how businesses make money.
And here’s the key–technology:
These developments have implications beyond corporate legal services. Corporations can access legal technology without worrying about the unauthorized practice rules that restrict this technology at the consumer level. But once this technology is widespread in firms it will be harder to block its availability to consumers.