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August 2010

A few words on the marvelous corporation

It's to take for granted. But we shouldn't. UCLA law professor Stephen Bainbridge explains:

I tell my students about Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who wrote that: “The limited liability corporation is the greatest single discovery of modern times. Even steam and electricity are less important than the limited liability company.”

I tell them about journalists John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge,whose magnificent history, The Company, contends that the corporation is “thebasis of the prosperity of the West and the best hope for the future of the rest ofthe world.” [footnote omitted]

. . .

The corporation also has proven to be a powerful engine for focusing the efforts of individuals to maintain economic liberty. Because tyranny is far more likely to come from the public sector than the private, those who for selfish reasons strive to maintain both a democratic capitalist society and, of particular relevance to the present argument, a substantial sphere of economic liberty therein serve the public interest.

. . .

And so I put it to my students this way: You want to help make society a better place? You want to eliminate poverty? Become a corporate lawyer. Help businesses grow, so that they can create jobs and provide goods and services that make people’s lives better.

Three links on how Big Law is changing

Boston Globe, 8/6: "Law firms rethinking pay system: At many Hub offices, automatic raises are a thing of the past". 

Slate, 8/19: "Leaving Big Law Behind: The many frustrations that cause well-paid lawyers to hang out their own shingles".   

Glenn Reynolds, 2009: "Small is the New Biglaw: Some Thoughts on Technology, Economics, and the Practice of Law".