The BigLaw business model continues stumble, according to The Wall Street Journal in What’s a First-Year Lawyer Worth?:
Law firms often treat the first two years of an attorney’s career as a sort of apprenticeship, albeit a well-paid one: the yearly salaries at many of the nation’s largest law firms start at $160,000. Traditionally, law firms have recouped costs of young attorneys by giving them simple jobs—research, proofreading or culling important documents from boxes of paperwork—and passing the costs along to clients in the form of hours billed at $200 or $300 a pop.
But many companies are now refusing to pay those kinds of bills. According to a September survey for The Wall Street Journal by the Association of Corporate Counsel, a bar association for in-house lawyers, more than 20% of the 366 in-house legal departments that responded are refusing to pay for the work of first- or second-year attorneys, in at least some matters. Almost half of the companies, which have annual revenues ranging from $25 million or less to more than $4 billion, said they put those policies in place during the past two years, and the trend appears to be growing.
Increasingly, companies send their simple jobs to contract lawyers, independent contractors who are far less expensive than young associates.