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The Scale of Justice: Observations on the Transformation of Urban Law Practice

August 2001

From the Annual Review of Sociology

In the last quarter of the twentieth century, urban law practice changed markedly. Using data from two surveys of Chicago lawyers, the first in 1975 and the second in 1995, the article argues that the most consequential development was the sheer increase in the size of firms. The organization of the delivery of legal services was restructured, and the relationships between lawyers and clients changed. Growth in the power and prestige of corporate inside counsel, greater competition among law firms, and the move by those firms into broader geographic markets precipitated changes in firm management. The recent movement into the international market for legal services of large accounting firms, financial services firms, and consulting firms (creating “multidisciplinary” partnerships) suggests the possibility of more far reaching changes in the next decade or two.