Structural Change or Collective Amnesia?

(2020) 57:4 Alberta Law Review 1053

6 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2020 Last revised: 3 Aug 2020

See all articles by Phil Lord

Phil Lord

Université de Moncton - Faculty of Law; McGill University - Faculty of Law; York University - Osgoode Hall Law School

Date Written: February 2020


This paper reviews Norman Bacal’s "Breakdown: The Inside Story of the Rise and Fall of Heenan Blaikie." It ties Bacal's reflections on the recent downfall of one of Canada's largest and most prestigious law firms to the broader issues affecting the legal profession and its business model. It argues that, while the rising economic tide may have resulted in strong economic performance at Canada's law firms, their fundamental business model remains largely unchanged. It concludes that, as we likely approach the end of a growth cycle, Bacal’s book is an untapped source of wisdom and a cautionary tale, for scholars, practitioners, and law students alike. It could help us turn our apparent collective amnesia into genuine innovation, hopefully before it is too late.

Keywords: big law, BigLaw, law firm, business model, billable hour, Heenan Blaikie, Canada, recession, Dewey, LeBoeuf, economic, performance, innovation, profit, profits per partner, Am Law, AmLaw, hourly rate, happiness, partner

Suggested Citation

Lord, Phil, Structural Change or Collective Amnesia? (February 2020). (2020) 57:4 Alberta Law Review 1053, Available at SSRN:

Phil Lord (Contact Author)

Université de Moncton - Faculty of Law ( email )

18 Antonine-Maillet Ave
Moncton, NB E1A 3E9


McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

3644 Peel Street
Montreal, QC H3A 1W9

York University - Osgoode Hall Law School ( email )

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3

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