Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Changing Fortunes of 2016

the changing fortunes of 2016
  Photo credit: L. Tripoli

Can the Legal Industry Sustain Itself?

The New Year’s news of layoffs at BigLaw’s Reed Smith and the reminder that firms are quietly relying more on contract associates rather than on partnership-track ones show that the legal business is far from staid and is ripe for continued shake-up. So much of what’s happening on the BigLaw scene reminds me of my days as a political science student during the end of the Cold-War era when so many of my professors would say that they didn’t see how the Soviet Union could possibly sustain itself. Ultimately, it couldn’t. I see BigLaw being in the same sort of transformative moment no matter how much industry leaders may want to avoid it.

Industry followers foresee continuing shifts for the coming year, as the LexisNexis Business of Law Blog posted. Check out my forecast in Beautiful Minds: 41 Legal Industry Predictions for 2016.

—Lori Tripoli

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

BigLaw + Law School = Collaborative, Nonprofit Law Firm

The Georgetown University Law Center, pictured, has partnered with Arent Fox and DLA Piper to form a nonprofit law firm accessible to lower income clients in an effort to make the law more accessible to those in need of legal assistance. Photo credit: M. Ciavardini 
I am intrigued by the collaboration of my law school alma mater, Georgetown University Law Center, and two for-profit law firms that, together, have launched a “low bono” nonprofit law firm intended for clients whose incomes are between 200 and 400 percent above the poverty line. Part of an industry-wide awareness that the law needs to become more accessible to many people who cannot afford legal fees at standard rates, but who typically don’t qualify for free representation through legal aid organizations, the initiative pairs Georgetown with two BigLaw firms, Arent Fox and DLA Piper. It will be staffed by LL.M fellows at Georgetown with BigLaw lawyers training and supervising on a pro bono basis. Even more interesting is that leadership of the newly formed organization, the D.C. Affordable Law Firm, is looking to include nonlawyers as well in some way. It’s an exciting path given the realization that not only does the law need to be more accessible, but law does not operate in a silo; it overlaps with business, social needs, and so on—so why not make different types of professionals more accessible, too?

This sort of law school/law firm collaboration could become a trend. After the Georgetown/Arent Fox/DLA Piper initiative was announced, a number of New York law firms, the City University of New York School of Law, and the New York City Bar Association disclosed another “low bono” collaboration called Court Square that will also feature legal fellows working for clients of modest income under the mentorship of lawyers. These fellows will also be learning how to run a small law practice.

Exciting times in the legal industry, indeed.

—Lori Tripoli

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