"Firms made up for the weak demand by charging clients more per hour, Wells Fargo found." - Sara Randazzo, The Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2015. Here is the article.
The joke seems to be on the client. How much longer this kind of game can continue depends on clients, of course. They are the ones who can end this kind of game.
Sure, there are those bet-the-range cases which lock clients in. No corporation will rock the boat experimenting with trying out another firm.
One of those high-stakes pieces of litigation is "People of California v. ARCO." Sherwin-Williams, which was among the defendants which lost, has been represented by Jones Day. If there isn't an appeal which pans out, investors could wind up shorting Sherwin-Williams.
But for much of the rest of litigation and transactional work, there are growing numbers of alternatives for BigLaw. In the Harvard Business Review, John C. Williams frames them as "New Law." They operate differently than BigLaw. Because they do, some of them charge less. So far, there are about 50 of them.
Among them are firms which are totally remote. That means no overhead for leasing office space in metro areas. If they need to meet with clients, plenty of facilities lease traditional offices by the hour, half day, or week. Clients benefit in the billing.
Reflection: Somehow the model of lower demand and higher pricing doesn't seem sustainable.