A lawsuit could lead to more competition and more choice
Feb 2nd 2013 | NEW YORK |From the print edition
JACOBY & MYERS embodies what many people dislike about American lawyers. The firm solicits new clients with advertisements which tantalise people with dreams of huge payouts. “Remember that guy? Who came in second at the last New York Marathon? Neither do we. Winning is everything,” boasted one of its commercials in 2011 (though the firm settled the vast majority of cases before a verdict).
Jacoby & Myers was a pioneer in fighting in the 1970s for lawyers’ right to advertise. Today, the firm is trying to win another suit to change the rules of America’s legal industry, which generated revenues of $261 billion in the 12 months to September. If successful, the suit would allow non-lawyer investors to put money in a law firm—first in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which Jacoby & Myers has picked as a target, and then probably elsewhere. Currently law firms, whether a “single shingle” or one like Jones Day (the biggest American firm by headcount with more than 2,400 lawyers and 800 partners) may have only one corporate form anywhere except the District of Columbia: a partnership owned only by lawyers.