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The Death of Big Law

68 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2009 Last revised: 27 Sep 2010

Larry E. Ribstein

University of Illinois College of Law (deceased); PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Date Written: August 1, 2010

Abstract

Large law firms face unprecedented stress. Many have dissolved, gone bankrupt or significantly downsized in recent years. These events reflect more than just a shrinking economy: the basic business model of the large U.S. law firm is failing and needs fundamental restructuring. There are at least three prerequisites to establishing the viable large legal services firm of the future. First, the firm must own a core of durable, firm-specific property. Second, the firm must be able to secure non-lawyer financing in a variety of forms. Third, coherent legal structures must evolve that are suitable for large law firms. Big Law’s ability to meet these conditions is contingent on significant changes in the regulation of law practice. The article discusses the current stresses on Big Law, potential business models for legal services, and the forces that may usher in the introduction of these models.

JEL Classification: K20, K22, L51

Suggested Citation

Ribstein, Larry E., The Death of Big Law (August 1, 2010). Wisconsin Law Review, Vol. 2010, No. 3, 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1467730 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1467730

Larry Edward Ribstein (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law (deceased)

PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

2048 Analysis Drive
Suite A
Bozeman, MT 59718
United States

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