The Collapse of Big Law: A Cautionary Tale for Big Med – Richard Gunderman and Mark Mutz – The Atlantic

The Atlantic has an analysis of what it calls Big Med and compares it to the collapse of Big Law and the so-called deprofessionalization of law. I think the collapse of the legal market is overstated in general and certainly in this article. I don’t think anyone in private practice has ever assumed that they are doing it solely to improve society. It is a way to make a living, enjoyable for some of us (I am a solo and a big law refugee and I love what I do), and less enjoyable for some. I think notions of professionalism are largely overrated in any event.

People don’t trust lawyers because we are as a bunch not trustworthy. We aren’t really supposed to be. We are tasked with arguing on behalf of clients to get them a favorable result regardless of what is right, so how can you trust us?


2 thoughts on “The Collapse of Big Law: A Cautionary Tale for Big Med – Richard Gunderman and Mark Mutz – The Atlantic

  1. That Atlantic article was terrible. It conflated the “collapse of BigLaw” with a loss of professionalism, when they are totally different things. BigLaw of the 1990s and 2000s was a bubble and now it’s popped. The dropoff in law school applications is perfectly sensible. The article had no historical comparison whatsoever; what was the regard for lawyers among the public in the 1970s? (probably not much better than today) What was the number of lawyers per capita a few decades ago? (I’m betting significantly fewer than today)

    There’s been no BigMed historically (indeed, until recently even elite doctors mostly worked in small practice groups; there was not the need for a dozen junior doctor to handle each doctor-partner’s grunt work, that’s what nurses and lab techs were for) and not much of an inflationary problem in medicine. US medical schools have crazy-strict admission standards compared to law schools, even Ivies, and are not oversupplying doctors — indeed, given the predicted increase in health care demand after the ACA, they may be undersupplying MDs. We import foreign-trained doctors as a much larger percentage of the medical profession than we do foreign-trained lawyers to the legal profession. If you can get into med school, make it through, then through internship, residency and fellowship (for specialists), you’re very unlikely to face unemployment.

    The loss of professionalism is a separate issue. In general the professions have moved away from opaque, often paternalistic models in which they tell clients just what the doctor/lawyer thinks they need to know. Billing records are a sign of this; they have become drastically more detailed than they were 40 years ago. As clients of both doctors and lawyers have become less trusting and more-informed consumers in other aspects of their life, they also expect professionals to give them more information about quality and price. There’s good and bad aspects to this, but it has very little to do with the number of jobs available.

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