Lawyers are back

Lawyers are having a moment. How long will it last?

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Global market and technology changes have reshaped the law profession since the recession, and not always for the better.

To paraphrase a report published in 2016 by legal consulting firm Altman Weil, the industry suffers from too many lawyers and declining demand for services.

“Most firms,” the authors add gloomily, “are choosing to proceed with lawyerly caution in the midst of a market that is being reinvented around them.”

But there are signs of forward movement. Many local firms report year-over-year revenue increases, and new restructuring and technology initiatives are helping boost efficiency and entrepreneurialism.

Political forces are also giving the profession an unexpected lift. Consider the March cover of the Stranger, Seattle’s alt weekly, featuring Washington state attorney general Bob Ferguson — he who went up against the Trump Administration’s first immigration ban and won.

The cover line read “American Heartthrob,” and the accompanying photo spread styled the unassuming Ferguson as a teen idol.

Legal marijuana, the gig economy and transgender issues have also put business lawyers at the forefront of national culture debates.

On the following pages, we report on a few of the people, companies and trends driving change in Oregon’s legal profession.

Our interview subjects don’t shy away from the challenges: The industry may be having a moment. But how long will it last?

Digital Transformation

The Crusader

The Great Restructuring

Politics and New Practice Areas

The Future: Law Schools Retrench

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