70 Md. L. Rev. 451 (2010-2011)
Back to the Future in Law Schools

handle is hein.journals/mllr70 and id is 455 raw text is: BACK TO THE FUTURE IN LAW SCHOOLS

It was a pleasure participating in the Symposium on the Profes-
sion and the Academy: Addressing Major Changes in Law Practice and
hearing thoughtful (and interesting) people discuss the future of my
professions-the practice and teaching of law. Of particular interest
was the willingness of participants to talk about law in contexts other
than BigLaw' and T142 schools.' No doubt that was partially due to
Copyright @ 2011 by William L. Reynolds.
* Jacob A. France Professor ofJudicial Process, University of Maryland School of Law.
This Essay is an adaptation of remarks I made at the Symposium. Thanks to the panel and
the audience at the Symposium for their comments then and later. Thanks also to
Michelle Harner, Juliet Moringiello, and William Richman for comments on a draft of this
1. There has been much discussion lately about the viability of the traditional BigLaw
business model. See, e.g., Andrew Bruck & Andrew Canter, Note, Supply, Demand, and the
Changing Economics of Large Law Firms, 60 STAN. L. REv. 2087, 2088 (2008) (examining the
long-term effects of introducing external market forces into the legal industry). Many have
predicted its demise to some extent. See generally, e.g., John P. Heinz, When Law Firns Fail,
43 Surrom U. L. REv. 67, 68-70 (2009) (suggesting that large firms will continue to shrink
and dissolve because of their collective participation in what has increasingly become a
winner-take-all market); Larry E. Ribstein, The Death of Big Law, 2010 Wis. L. REv. 749
(arguing that the recent downsizing of large firms is due more to a fundamentally flawed
business model than to a shrinking economy and predicting dire consequences for firms
that fail to adapt to changing corporate environments). I believe that prediction is un-
likely because the doomsayers overlook several factors. First, the cost of lawyers in a large
business transaction is small in comparison with the cost of other players in such an ex-
change-especially investment bankers. E.g., CHRIS RISEY, WHITE PAPER: INVESTMENT BANK-
ING FEES EXAMINED 4 (2009), available at http://www.lanternadvisors.com/Investment
BankingFeesExaminedWhitePaper.pdf (noting that, on average, when companies employ
financial consultants at fee rates typical of corporate law firms, the total cost of the same
service with a positive result is a fraction of what investment bankers charge). Clients dealing with
very large sums of money are not going to concern themselves with this sort of loose
change. Second, a client does not have to worry about being second-guessed if she
chooses a prominent firm like Wachtell, something all too likely to happen if disaster
strikes while using legal talent with a less prestigious name. Third, prestige itself counts.
What general counsel at a meeting of museum trustees wants to admit that her company
uses Dewey Cheatham & Howe? In short, as companies start making large profits again,
they will become less concerned with cost and more concerned with reputation.
2. T14 refers collectively to the fourteen schools that consistently place at the top of
annual law school rankings. Martha Neil, Yale's Still #1 in Latest U.S. News Rankings;
Harvard, Stanford, Columbia & Chicago Follow, A.B.A. J. (Apr. 15, 2010, 12:09 AM), http://
www.abajournal.com/news/article/law._school_rankings/. Recently, critics who doubt
whether law school makes economic sense as an investment have questioned the continued
willingness of persons to apply to law school. See generally Neil J. Dilloff, The Changing Cul-


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