Special Section: Connecting to the Profession

Managing the Profession

Harvard Law School and leading practitioners are joining forces

Last year, the U.S. market for legal services totaled nearly $193 billion—more than the gross domestic product of Finland. A small but growing slice of that business was outsourced to lawyers in India.

That’s a single snapshot of both the growth and change confronting the legal profession today.

Globalization and technology are spawning new competitive pressures. Some law firms now count more than 1,000 lawyers and thousands more employees. Many of their corporate clients are quietly building their own powerhouse legal departments, altering the dynamics of the market for services. Even in government and nonprofit legal organizations, there is transformation.

On the demographic front, the baby boomers who went to law school in record numbers during the 1960s and ’70s are nearing retirement age. Women and minorities have been entering the profession at steadily growing rates, but they haven’t moved into leadership positions in proportion to their numbers. Some are leaving practice as part of a broader exodus that poses one of the biggest strategic concerns for the profession today: attrition among junior lawyers. Career paths are no longer as linear or predictable as they once were.

What do all these changes mean? For one thing, that the practice of law requires more strategic planning than it did just a few decades ago. Lawyers are confronting unprecedented managerial and organizational challenges, whether in major law firms, solo practices, corporate law departments, or public interest enterprises and projects.

That’s why Harvard Law School has launched a first-of-its-kind center to study the big questions facing the profession, from globalization to career satisfaction, from “offshoring” to “off-ramps.” It will train not just tomorrow’s leaders of the legal profession, but also some of today’s. And it will do so by bringing the world of practice and the world of the academy closer together.

Here, the Bulletin looks at some challenges facing the profession in the 21st century.

Bridge-building for the future
A first-of-its-kind research center readies lawyers for a changing profession.

The source on outsourcing
Law, too, is going offshore. Two Harvard Law students are getting a firsthand look.

Traffic on the off-ramp
Women are still second-class citizens in the legal profession. What can be done about it?

The coming wave
In the 1970s, many went into law to make a difference. Some of them are finally making it now. Today’s young lawyers don’t want to wait that long.

See also:
Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes

Three questions for a strategist