Legal news

Industry stories, current issues and things you ought to know about.

“Bonus season this year was really exciting," articulated one of our sources. Cravath's sovereignty over the industry's bonus scale was finally challenged by two New York neighbours. First Simpson Thacher announced their bonuses early, and then traditionally cautious Davis Polk unleashed a bonus scale that led the rest of the market to new heights. What effect does this have at the junior level? "It's certainly having the desired effect of making me think that maybe I won't leave as soon as I thought!”

And there are more graphs pointing upward for the class of 2015 – this time in the class size survey. The Chambers Associate survey of leading firms found a 5% boost in new associate classes and a 8.3% increase in summer program numbers on last year. Although a closer look at the figures seems to support Jim Leipold of NALP's contention that there's as 'new normal' in legal recruiting – with intakes still falling short of their pre-recessionary heights. We also found a wider gap emerging between the stronger and weaker recruiters. Read the full story here.

This 'new normal' is kept low by a whole host of economic factors, but the rise of automation in the legal industry certainly doesn't help. We spotted a host of new online lawyering services, including Rocket Lawyer, Legal Zoom, and Nolo. The shake-up doesn't end there, either. Steven J. Harper's recent blog reflects on what would happen if the law firm followed other industries in putting businessmen, instead of practitioners, in the driving seat. Are lawyers still the best people to run law firms?

Under threat from robots and MBAs alike, law schools have come under fire for encouraging hordes of students into a highly competitive profession. Lobbying group Law School Transparency has been putting the thumbscrews on law schools to publish their employment figures since 2010. If you're applying for law school, you might do well to see how your choices check out for employability and projected debt levels using their Score Reports – and if you're at law school already, you might just wind up looking at transfers.

As potential law students become more aware that a place at law school isn't necessarily a dream ticket to getting your feet under a shiny conference room table, law school admissions are dropping off. The Washington Post highlights their attempts to innovate and stay afloat, including more externships, writing practice, and classes on the economics of law firms for wannabe solo practitioners. And although it might not always feel worth it after a 24-hour caffeine pill and study binge, Leave Law Behind has some heartening words on the value of a law degree – they might not envy your bank balance, but your college friends are sure to envy your self-discipline, smarts and negotiations skills.