The Great Recession intensified large law firms’ emphasis on financial performance, leading to claims that lawyers in these firms were now guided by business rather than professional values. Based on interviews with more than 250 partners in large firms, Mitt Regan and Lisa H. Rohrer suggest that the reality is much more complex. It is true that large firm hiring, promotion, compensation, and termination policies are more influenced by business considerations than ever before and that firms actively recruit profitable partners from other firms to replace those they regard as unproductive. At the same time, law firm partners continue to seek the non-financial rewards of being members of a distinct profession and are sensitive to whether their firms are committed to providing them. Regan and Rohrer argue that modern firms responding effectively to business demands while credibly affirming the importance of non-financial professional values can create strong cultures that enhance their ability to weather the storms of the modern legal market.
Mitt Regan is McDevitt Professor of Jurisprudence and Director of the Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at Georgetown Law Center.
Lisa H. Rohrer is a senior fellow at the Center on Ethics and the Legal Profession at Georgetown Law Center and a senior advisor at Fairfax Associates.