The Problems with Big Law ...
Recently, Stephen Baik, a partner Sidley Austin LLP allegedly announced his departure from the firm and, in doing so, pulled back the curtain on the “mystique” of Big Law. Sidley, a 150 year old law firm, boasts some “2,000 lawyers in 20 offices around the globe“. When Baik left, he let his clients know why:
Law firms have forgotten how to have honest relationships with their clients;
Law firm partners are more concerned with their own compensation and metrics (realization rates, profits per partner and the like) than they are with their clients; and
Those Big Law lawyers who recognize that service to clients is the primary goal are in the minority.
Baik’s complaints are becoming more and more common today. Sometimes the complaints come from attorneys on the inside (for instance, Jones Day, another Big Law firm with 2,500 attorneys and almost $2 billion in revenue, is currently facing not one, but two gender discrimination lawsuits — one alleging unequal compensation and another alleging an anti-woman fraternity culture) and sometimes from the clients themselves.
Either way, clients need to be aware that they are retaining zealous counsel who puts the clients first, not the counsel’s own self-interest.