Practice Area Group Environment – PAGE: (a version of) BigLaw’s Future?

November 2, 2012

Technology is having an ever deepening impact on the practice of law and the sustainability of traditional practice and law firm models, with mobile devices, DIY legal forms and software tools online, outsourcing and off-shoring of routine legal services, increasing practice complexity and specialization, and fewer true borders between regulatory regimes which significantly increases the possibility of malpractice claims, UPL, and other liability exposures.

In light of the present and persistent economic malaise and recurrent trends in boom and bust legal hiring, a serious argument can be made for the grouping of related and complementary (including with counter-cyclical balancing) legal practice areas so as to better protect the long-term prospects of business/management side law firms; some of which – Coudert Brothers LLP (2006), Heller Ehrman (2008), Thelen LLP (2009), Howrey LLP (2011), and Dewey & LeBoeuf (2012) – are no longer with us.

As set in alphabetical order, a sampling of practice area group environments (forgive me if I missed yours) in a global corporate legal industry still valued at $100 billion/p.a.,[1] might include:

(1) Biotechnology, Intellectual Property, Technology, Entertainment, and Sports Laws (BITES);

(2) Corporate, Commercial, Advertising, Marketing, Publication, Promotion, and Sponsorship Laws (CAMPS);

(3) Crisis Counseling, and Document Disposition and e-Discovery Evidentiary Compliance (CCDE);

(4) Cybersecurity, Cloud, e-Commerce, and Outsourcing Practices (CCEO);

(5) Communications, Healthcare, Insurance, Privacy, and Data Protection Laws (CHIPDP);

(6) Complex Litigation on the Environment, Climate, Criminality and Torts (CLECT);

(7) Energy, Natural Resources, Emissions, Water, and Climate Change Law (ENREWC);

(8) Fashion, Fabric-ware, Immigration, Labor and Employment, and Benefits Laws (FILE-B);

(9) Government Lobbying and International Relations Law (GLIR);

(10) Indigenous Governance and Laws (IGL);

(11) International Organizations and Not-for-Profit Laws (IONP);

(12) Mergers, Acquisitions, Banking, Securities, and Securitization Laws (MABS);

(13) Manufacturing, Retail, and Consumer goods Laws (MARC);

(14) Municipal, Electoral, and Local Governance Laws (MELG);

(15) Medicine, Implantable Device, Drink, Agriculture, Food, and Supplements Laws (MIDAFS);

(16) Private Equity, Government Contracts, and Venture Capital Syndication and Counseling (PEGVC);

(17) Procurement; International Trade and Customs; Competition; and Constitutional Law, Civil Rights, and Human Rights Law (PITCH);

(18) Permitting, Real Estate, Leasing, and Franchising Practices (PRELF);

(19) Restructuring, Insolvency, Funding of Distressed Entities, and ADR (RIFDEA);

(20) Partnership, Venture, and Small Business Formation and Counseling (PVSBFC);

(21) Trusts and Estates, Education, Disability and Elder Laws (TEDE);

(22) Transportation, Regulatory, Utilities, National Security, and Construction Laws (TRUNC).

This represents one way to put some proper comparability and commonsense competition (not based on ever diminishing fees in cutthroat price competition) into legal service offerings, and also have partners and practitioners cluster for their mutual synergies and sustainability against the individually-experienced valleys of unpredictable business cycles, and the better service of their clients with tangible enhanced value in-PAGE depth.  Due to the strict fiscal discipline and focus on sustainability over growth[2] that this proposed system would impose, each PAGE might:

(a)     Keep ¼ of what it brings in on its book of business as pure profit (that it will distribute amongst its own partners, associates, and dedicated staff as it sees fit);

(b)   Apportion ¼ for its own PAGE “initial” overhead and business development pool;

(c)    Send another ¼ off to account for the firm-wide “residual” overhead and recruiting pool (from which each PAGE will then be able to draw in some pre-set or floating formula);

(d)   Have to then relegate the last ¼ to debt service, first; anything left over going into the residual overhead and recruiting pool, as the secondary option.  From this, leaders of all PAGE will jointly decide whether and to what extent they can free funds for reversion to PAGEs – whether by quantum of contribution, or lockstep in true equity.

These proportions are not set in stone, and firms will remain free to tweak them as they see best.  Each PAGE will also have to set budgets in advance and submit projections to the firm.  Of course, some contrarians and “elitists” will look to further distinguish themselves by avoiding a PAGE system or rearranging themes.  But, PAGE is already here, partly, as some global firms prefer “partnerships of partnerships” with significant business and budgetary autonomy.  However, time will always tell, and in the full light of day, whether or not the elitists were right!

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Author:

Ekundayo George is a sociologist and a lawyer, with over a decade of legal experience including business law and counseling (business formation, outsourcing, commercial leasing, healthcare privacy, Cloud applications, and Cybersecurity); diverse litigation, as well as ADR; and regulatory practice (planning and zoning, environmental controls, landlord and tenant, and GRC – governance, risk, and compliance investigations, audits, and counseling in both Canada and the United States).  He is licensed to practice law in Ontario, Canada, as well as in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., in the United States of America (U.S.A.).  See: http://www.ogalaws.com

He is an experienced strategic and management consultant; sourcing, managing, and delivering on high stakes, strategic projects with multiple stakeholders and multidisciplinary teams.  See: http://www.simprime-ca.com

Being a business owner who has taken courses in management, organizational behaviour, and micro-organizational behaviour, Mr. George is also a writer, tweeter and blogger (as time permits), and a published author in Environmental Law and Policy (National Security aspects).

Hyperlinks to external sites are provided to readers of this blog as a courtesy and convenience, only, and no warranty is made or responsibility assumed by either or both of George Law Offices and Strategic IMPRIME Consulting & Advisory, Inc. (“S’imprime-ça”), in whole or in part for their content, or their accuracy, or their availability.

This article does not constitute legal advice or create any lawyer-client relationship.


[1] Jennifer Smith.  Survey Says Post-Recession Shifts Are Here to Stay.  Published on blogs.wsj.com, May 16, 2012.  Online: >http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/05/16/brave-new-world-legal-edition-survey-says-post-recession-shifts-here-to-stay/?mod=WSJBlog<

[2] Edward Tan, JD.  Why the BigLaw Business Model Should Be Put to Sleep.  Published on blogs.findlaw.com, June 21, 2012.  Online: >http://blogs.findlaw.com/greedy_associates/2012/06/why-the-biglaw-business-model-should-be-put-to-sleep.html<

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One Response to “Practice Area Group Environment – PAGE: (a version of) BigLaw’s Future?”


  1. […] [2] See e.g. Ekundayo George.  Practice Area Group Environment – PAGE: (a version of) BigLaw’s Future?  Published November 2, 2012, on ogalaws.wordpress.com.  Online: >https://ogalaws.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/practice-area-group-environment-page-a-version-of-biglaws-fu…< […]


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