Where Have All the Lawyers Gone?

Perhaps the most surprising piece news from last night’s Ignite Law was Jay Shepherd’s announcement that he’s shutting down his firm to focus full time on his business, Prefix LLC which teaches lawyers how to price knowledge. The next day, another colleague revealed that he too will leave his practice to focus on another venture – and of course, Matt Homann, who organized Ignite is a recovered lawyer as well as is Kevin O’Keefe who runs LexBlog.

This isn’t a post about whether those who leave the law are better or worse than those who remain. Instead, more generally, I wonder about the implications of the loss of energy and talent and teachers from our profession. Knowledge once imparted through the ages as mentorship has now been product-ized and commoditized. Yet at the same time, informal mentorship can’t keep pace with rapid changes in the profession, or offer the same level of advice – nor can mentors develop products and new technologies that help solo and small firms advance. Perhaps in fact, the whole concept of mentorship doesn’t even make sense in an age of new ideas where lawyers may be better off buying the advice that they need instead of relying on tips from colleagues. Selling mentorship makes our profession a far less collegial and generous place – but perhaps it’s more effective and efficient.

This post, of course, is somewhat self-indulgent. Though there may be broader implications to lawyers leaving the law, the trend affects me personally. Seeing others doing similar things to what I do at my blog and then moving on to do more of it makes me feel a little bit left behind. Moreover, I wonder if these folks know something that I don’t about the importance of focusing on one thing at a time. After all, I’m not sure how I can continue to lead a divided life between practicing law and writing and speaking about it. And yet, it’s too hard to choose.

What do you think? Would you leave the practice of law for a law-related business? What would it take to make you go?