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Law Practice Management

Role-Playing Game Suggests Lower-Paid Future for BigLaw Lawyers

Posted Apr 21, 2009 7:02 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A sort of Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game at a law school last weekend shed light on a possible future for BigLaw that includes lower salaries and more training for associates.

The game was led by Indiana University law professor Bill Henderson and Anthony Kearns, the lead risk manager for the Australian lawyers insurance operation, the American Lawyer reports. The players included lawyers, law students, legal consultants and clients.

Kearns opened the session by comparing big law firms to turkeys that live, on average, 1,000 days, according to the story. As turkeys near the end of their life span, everything seems to be the same, except that some of their feathered friends aren’t around anymore. On day 1,000, everything changes. Kearns said some law firms, like turkeys, are in jeopardy but they don’t know it.

In Kearns’ view, the big firm bubble is about to burst, due to pressure from clients, the competition for associates and business, and the exodus of talented of lawyers.

The role-playing teams agreed on this future, according to the article:

• Associates will be paid less, earning starting salaries ranging from $80,000 to $125,000. Promotion will be tied to competency and bonuses will be tied to law firm performance. Firms will offer more training and exposure to the real world of law practice.

• Partners will be organized in one-tier partnerships and will earn less money. More money will be saved by allowing lawyers to work at home or by moving offices from cities to suburbs.

• Firms will adopt a variety of alternative fees, and will share risk with clients whenever possible. They will also learn more about client businesses and will send lawyers to client offices to learn more about the companies.

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