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The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis Hardcover – April 2, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (April 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465058779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465058778
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #253,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Harper, an attorney and law-school professor, investigates the causes of what he sees as a rapid decline in the sustainability of and professionalism in the legal profession while providing novel solutions. He starts with law-school deans gleefully accepting easily awarded student loans in order to pump naive applicants into a large and expanding pool of underemployed graduates, and he decries the impact of inane law-school rankings on schools’ policies, where raw numbers reign supreme despite their proven irrelevance. Harper also points to detailed statistics of (nondischargeable) student debt and the unavailability of legal jobs to display how problems in the legal profession are institutional in nature. Deans and equity partners frequently face the prisoner’s dilemma: if every law school or large firm cooks the books, the first to play fair will suffer a severe disadvantage unless all others come clean as well. What surprises Harper is how such damning statistics and examples are unable to dissuade scores of undergraduates who still hope to pursue a career that, according to Harper, will likely not pay off in dollars or in job satisfaction. Anyone looking into a career in law would be well advised to read this thoroughly eye-opening warning. --Steve Uhrich

Review


“The legal profession is facing some fundamental changes, and Harper deserves credit for sounding the alarm…. Harper’s big-picture argument is undoubtedly correct, and it is a real cause for concern.”
Time Magazine's Ideas blog

“Harper makes a strong case for rethinking the nature of legal education and the current business model for big law firms…a must read for managing partners, law school administrators and, most certainly, prospective law students.”—USA Today

“[Harper has] a complete mastery of his subject matter, both from an economic and legal perspective…. Not only is Harper a gifted lawyer able to marshal facts, but he is an especially deft writer, and he tells his story as only a gifted author can…. Harper does not simply criticize the current state of affairs; he offers solutions, if only we are wise enough either to embrace them, modify them, or come up with additional curatives…. The Lawyer Bubble is a wake up call for those of us who love our profession, and it is a book that all lawyers should read.”
Circuit Rider

The Lawyer Bubble is a most worthwhile read, both for people already in the legal profession and those thinking about entering it. The book is a clear-eyed, sometimes harsh, but always fair-minded indictment of our deeply troubled profession…. [Harper] does a fine job of synthesizing recent developments, analyzing their root causes, and providing sensible solutions.”
—David Lat, Above the Law

“In addition to actual solutions, along with a comprehensive analysis of the problems, Harper provides a masterpiece of fine writing.”
Law and More

“The perfect book for a terrible time. If every Biglaw partner, law professor, and law school dean read this book and followed its prescriptions, we just might get our profession back on track…. Harper’s analysis is spot-on.”
—Lawyerist.com

“This is an important and timely book. It's two books, really. The first is a powerful recitation of how we got into this ‘unfortunate place,’ which may be more of a revelation to civilians than to lawyers who have paid attention to their alma mater's struggles or their firm's business plans. The second may not be so easy for lawyers to shrug off. It's a call to remedy the problems he so vividly describes. His answers aren't neat or in many cases likely. But he's identified the root problem—and he's looking at you!”
American Lawyer

“This exposé is by a lawyer who has worked in the trenches…. Startling and depressing…. Readable, well-researched, and scholarly.”
Library Journal

“It should be required reading for anyone in the large-law-firm world—and especially anyone who thinks they want to get into that business.”
—Paul Barrett, BusinessWeek

The Lawyer Bubble is a cogent critique of the legal profession by Steven J. Harper, who speaks with authority…. With the thoroughness of a skilled trial lawyer, Harper marshals impressive statistics and other materials to make his case.”
Shelf Awareness

“Harper is a seasoned insider unafraid to say what many other lawyers in his position might...written with keen insight and scathing accusations…. Harper brings his analytical and persuasive abilities to bear in a highly entertaining and riveting narrative…. The Lawyer Bubble is recommended reading for anyone working in a law related field. And for law school students—especially prospective ones—it really should be required reading.”
New York Journal of Books

“Anyone looking into a career in law would be well advised to read this thoroughly eye-opening warning.”
Booklist, starred review

“[Harper] is perfectly positioned to reflect on alarming developments that have brought the legal profession to a most unfortunate place…. Essential reading for anyone contemplating a legal career.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“[Harper] burns his bridges in this scathing indictment of law schools and big law firms…. his insights and admonitions are consistently on point.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Imagine that the elite lawyers of BigLaw and the legal academy were put on trial for their alleged negligence and failed stewardship. Imagine further that the State had at its disposal one of the nation’s most tenacious trial lawyers to doggedly build a complete factual record and then argue the case. The result would be The Lawyer Bubble. If I were counsel to the elite lawyers of BigLaw and the legal academy, I would advise my clients to settle the case.”
—William Henderson, Professor of Law and Director of the Center on the Global Legal Profession, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

The Lawyer Bubble is an important book, carefully researched, cogently argued and compellingly written. It demonstrates how two honorable callings – legal education and the practice of law – have become, far too often, unscrupulous rackets.”
—Scott Turow, author of Presumed Innocent and other novels

“Imagine that the elite lawyers of BigLaw and the legal academy were put on trial for their alleged negligence and failed stewardship. Imagine further that the State had at its disposal one of the nation’s most tenacious trial lawyers to doggedly build a complete factual record and then argue the case. The result would be The Lawyer Bubble. If I were counsel to the elite lawyers of BigLaw and the legal academy, I would advise my clients to settle the case.”
—William D. Henderson, Director of the Center on the Global Legal Profession and Professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law


“With wit and insight,The Lawyer Bubble offers a compelling portrait of the growing crisis in legal education and the practice of law. This book is essential reading for anyone concerned about the profession or contemplating a legal career.”
—Deborah L. Rhode, Professor of Law and Director of the Center on the Legal Profession, Stanford University


“This is a fine and important book, thoughtful and beautifully written. It makes the case – in a responsible and sober tone – that we are producing far too many lawyers for far too small a segment of American society. It is a must-read for leaders of law firms, law schools, and the bar, as the legal profession continues its wrenching transition from a profession into just another business.”
—Daniel S. Bowling III, Senior Lecturing Fellow, Duke Law School


“In this superb book, Steven Harper documents, ties together and suggests remedies for the deceit that motivates expanding law school enrollment in the face of a shrinking job market, the gaming of law school rankings and the pernicious effect of greed on the leadership of many of our nation’s leading law firms. The lessons he draws are symptomatic, and go well beyond the documented particulars.”
—Robert Helman, Partner and former Chairman (1984-98), Mayer Brown LLP; Lecturer, University of Chicago Law School


“Every sentient lawyer realizes that the legal profession is in crisis, but nobody explains the extent of the problem as well as Steven Harper. Fortunately, he also proposes some solutions – so there is still room for hope. This is an essential book.”
—Steven Lubet, author of Fugitive Justice and Lawyers’ Poker


“Steven Harper's The Lawyer Bubble is an expression of tough love for the law, law firms and the people who work in them. The clear message is take control of your destiny and your firm to avoid the serious jeopardy that confronts far too many firms today. Whether you are a partner, associate, or law student, you should read this compassionate and forceful work.”
—Edwin B. Reeser, Former managing partner, author, and consultant on law practice management

Customer Reviews

A must read for anyone considering law school!
KC1234
Steven Harper's The Lawyer Bubble is an excellent book about the current state of the legal profession and where it may be headed.
Michael H. Trotter
And for those who are still not sure, the book is very intelligent, well written and funny.
Mark A. Senn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Samuel J. Sharp on April 19, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book started well enough, and it was immediately evident that Harper put a lot of effort into his research. His writing style is clear and his central argument even clearer: the greed and short-term thinking of law school deans and equity partners has wrecked a once noble profession. Harper marshals plenty of evidence and anecdotes to show that as big firm profits and law school revenues have increased, associates are less happy and students are saddled with higher debts and reduced career prospects.

Harper is not the first person to document these trends, but his diagnosis that greed at the top is the source of all the profession's evils is fairly unique. He sees an industry hell-bent on preying on young, uninformed future and present lawyers. While his highly-charged rhetoric reflects his passion, it also becomes grating over 208 pages. At times Harper is far too dismissive of those who disagree with him. For example, on pages 169-170 he labels two authors of a thoughtful study on law firm trends, "apologists for big firms" who imply "a deprivation of free will that understates [law firm partners'] power and disserves the profession." The authors of the paper did no such thing, and Harper's eagerness to misstate their paper is odd. On pages 157-158, Harper caustically responds to the idea of creating undergraduate law programs by declaring, "There's no reason to analyze the untested assumptions that underlie their analysis because, like too much legal scholarship and academic thought, the idea is insufficiently tethered to the real world of possibilities."

Harper charts the history of the growth of large law firms, but he does not recognize how the industry has changed in other ways.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Michael H. Trotter on April 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Steven Harper's The Lawyer Bubble is an excellent book about the current state of the legal profession and where it may be headed. His thoughtful explanation of the collapse of several major American law firms starting with Findley Kumble and including Heller Erhman, Thelen, Howrey and Dewey does not exist elsewhere in print and is worth the cost of the book. In the process he identifies qualities that are lacking in many major firms that may lead to their collapse in the future.

Harper also addresses some of the significant impacts of technology on the competitive environment in the legal world, and the debacle of legal education in America. He presents fourteen proposals for "a meaningful course correction" in order to avoid Dewey like results. While each proposal is worthy of consideration and would be desirable, it is doubtful that they can be used to fundamentally change any major law firm that did not adopt these proposals years ago as the firm grew. Unaddressed is a further impediment to such changes--Model Rule 5.6 which makes every lawyer a free agent capable of moving at any time from one firm to another in response to a better offer. The ultimate issue may be how many of the major firms will change and survive and how many will be replaced by disruptive innovations in the delivery of legal services.

While Harper identifies two new forces outside the control of the big firms that are affecting the prospects of the major firms: outsourcing of electronic discovery and attorney temporary placement services, there is no mention of New Model law firms that have been created to function differently from the big firms while offering many competitive services at a lower cost.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By E. Clinton on May 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his 1993 book, The Lost Lawyer, the Dean of Yale Law School, Anthony Kronman lamented the changes in the legal profession, which, he believed had caused the collapse of the lawyer-statesman ideal. He worried that large firms had become too commercialized with highly specialized practice areas. He also worried that the ties that existed between law firms and lawyers were disappearing. Big firm lawyers were beginning to routinely move from one firm to another in search of higher salaries. Kronman was worried that all the lateral movement was weakening the culture of law firms and turning the law business into a greedy enterprise, with little nobility in it. He saw a dark future for the law business.

In the twenty-year period since 1993, almost every bad thing predicted by Dean Kronman came true. Big firms have grown so large that they have no cultural identity. Training for associates has disappeared. Firm partners are loyal only when they are well-paid. They leave firms when there is the slightest sign of trouble.

Twenty years later, Steven Harper has written The Lawyer Bubble, which discusses the one major development missed by Dean Kronman, the enormous overproduction of law graduates and the resulting misery of the young lawyers.

After a distinguished career trying cases, Harper retired from Kirkland and Ellis a few years ago. He has spent the last several years teaching and writing. Much of his writing centers on the problems of the legal profession. Harper writes a blog, known as The Belly of the Beast, which discusses large firms and law schools. The Lawyer Bubble is unique in that it compares and contrasts the problems of law schools and large law firms. Like Kronman, Harper does not think the legal profession is on a good course.
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More About the Author

Steven J. Harper is an adjunct professor at Northwestern University and a regular contributor to "The American Lawyer" ("AM LAW DAILY"). His latest book is "The Lawyer Bubble - A Profession in Crisis" (Basic Books/Perseus, April 2013).

In 2010, he published his first novel, "The Partnership" -- a legal thriller. His award-winning blog is "The Belly of the Beast" (www.thebellyofthebeast.wordpress.com), which the editors of the ABA Law Blawg chose as one of the best blogs of 2010.

In addition to "The Lawyer Bubble," he has written two other non-fiction books. "Crossing Hoffa: A Teamster's Story" (Borealis Books/Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2007) received the Chicago Tribune's award as one of "BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR" and won honors at the LONDON, NEW YORK, HOLLYWOOD, and NEW ENGLAND BOOK FESTIVALS. It's the true-crime story of his father's two-year tangle with Jimmy Hoffa from 1959 to 1961.

"Straddling Worlds: The Jewish-American Journey of Professor Richard W. Leopold" (Northwestern University Press, 2008), chronicles the life of a mentor who was a leading educator and historian. Harper wrote the book while spending every Sunday morning with Leopold during the final two years of his former professor's ninety-four-year life.

Harper is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and retired recently after 30 years at a large international law firm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, which he joined upon graduation from Harvard Law School (magna cum laude). He received B.A. (Phi Beta Kappa and with distinction) and M.A. degrees in economics through a combined program at Northwestern University.

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