Entry-level hiring by large law firms is notoriously inefficient and would seem to be ideally suited to technological disruption. Yet, according to Law Technology News (h/t Taxprof), JD Match, a company that purports to match law firms with law students, apparently only has seven law firms and 6,000 users registered on its site. One of JD Match's founders is Bruce McEwan, the man behind Adam Smith, Esq and the author of Growth Is Dead: Now What? Law Firms on the Brink. Mr. MacEwan's co-founder acknowledged in the LTN piece that JD Match overestimated BigLaw's appetite for change.
JD Match is hardly the only hyped product that has failed to change the legal industry. Bill Henderson called Washington and Lee's third year curriculum "the biggest legal education story in 2013" and claimed that "W&L is tooling around in a Model-T while the rest of us rely on horse and buggy.” As Alice Wooley noted in this space before, however, the program has not improved the employment prospects of W&L students. The employment rate actually fell from 2011 to 2012.
Both JD Match and W&L's 3L curriculum are worthwhile endeavors, and perhaps they both need time to win over a change-adverse industry. But for every successful disruption of an established market, there are likely many more examples of ballyhooed new entrants failing. We tend to remember and lionize the former but quickly forget the latter.
As I found out while working on a new article, the CEO of Washington Mutual Bank had his employees read Who Moved My Cheese? and aspired to transform how people obtained mortgages. WaMu became the largest commercial banking failure in U.S. history in large part due to its reliance on exotic mortgages.
Now that disruption has become the ultimate buzzword in legal circles, it might be worthwhile to not only pay attention to successful examples of innovation but failed ones as well. Everyone knows about Moneyball's effect on baseball, but there is a reason that Hollywood does not make movies about certain NFL teams' adoption of the Fun-N-Gun and Randy Ratio.