The always-worth-reading David Luban has this post on the possibility of a Marxist revolt at biglaw firms. (nod to Legal Profession Blog) As the commentators point out, the "Marxist analysis" is more than a little shaky. The associates from top schools offer little in the way of an existing skill base, but they certainly do benefit from the firm's financial capital, legal expertise, job connections, professional reputation, skills training, and client base. (Compare: what could the newbie lawyers earn if they shunned biglaw, banded together, and opened their own firm?) In terms of basic fairness, consider that the associates are paid several multiples of the average American household income. Of course, it may not pay to take the Marxist claim too seriously, as it seems to be offered tongue-in-cheek.
When I read an academic's critique of law firms along those lines , I'm always curious as to how the academic handles the glaring issue: biglaw firms couldn't do what they do without the very active assistance of the US law schools, which themselves feed high on the hog in a protected market. The ABA accreditation function, together with the hierarchical structure of US law schools, provides the Archimedean point on which the profession leverages much of its exclusion. So here's a tongue-in-cheek shout-out from a biglaw type to the academic critics: if we really are Marxist exploiters of the toiling masses, we couldn't do it without you guys!