For several years we've been discussing whether the legal profession is undergoing structural change. But what do we mean by that phrase? For me, the key issue is whether the profession will continue to earn supra-competitive profits. As one example, those of us who have been practicing 25 years have seen what has happened to insurance defense work. When I started out in the mid-1980s, insurance defense was a solid path for lots of lawyers to make partner and make good money. Over time, the market undercut those earnings. Is something similar happening to solos and even the high end of practice?
Here is an article by Ben Barton looking at those issues. And here is a post by Deborah Merritt commenting on the new Altman Weil survey. Both of them indicate to me that we're going to see continued erosion. Notice that even if law schools return to a semblance of normalcy in two years or so, if the market outcomes are very different then the profession will have undergone structural change.