University of North Carolina law professor Bernard Burk takes on the stifling effect of the hegemony of BigLaw () on the imagination of law students and on serious thought about the delivery of legal services (perhaps this latter point is wishful reading on my part). At any rate, his cogent Faculty Lounge post is inspired by the National Law Journal report on the most successful feeder schools to BigLaw firms. In addition to questioning whether law schools should continue to play into the mythology that BigLaw is the be-all and end-all of legal careers, Burk notes the changing market revealed by the data:
One striking thing about the NLJ’s numbers is the significantly smaller portion of the class of 2011 headed to BigLaw across the board compared with the year before the Great Recession. As the NLJ observed, the 20 law schools comprising the most fecund breeding-ground for BigLaw hires in 2007 sent a combined 55% of their graduating classes there. For the class of 2011, that number was 36%. For those of us who have been watching, this is no surprise. The principal reason for the precipitous fall undoubtedly is the obvious one—that BigLaw has drastically constricted its entry-level hiring, with the typical BigLaw firm now hiring entering classes 20-50% smaller than it did in 2007.
On a hopeful note, Burk suggests that the numbers may not be driven wholly by a rotten economy -- millenials themselves may be voluntary turning away from the stresses of the classic BigLaw life. Worth watching.