The album cover pictured above is of The Times They Are a-Changin’, singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s third studio album, released in January 1964. 

The title track is one of Dylan’s most famous. Many at the time felt that it captured the spirit of social and political upheaval that characterized the 1960s. 

Now let’s fast forward some 45-plus year later. There’s another type of upheaval going on. This time it’s financial. And we’re seeing some profound changes taking place in the financial services industry. 

Over at my other blog home, Slate’s Small Business blog, a special promotion by Open from American Express, both Marc Tracy and I see these changes taking place in two different areas. Marc on Wall Street, and me on “Big Law” (that’s the colloquial expression given to the 250 largest American law firms, with about 15 of them having more than 1000 lawyers).

Marc writes that The Great Rearranging Hits Wall Street when he says

Indeed, the essential disappearance of the investment-banking industry–with all five of the major i-banks having either switched to less flexible and more regulated bank holding companies (Goldman, Morgan Stanley), been bought by bank holding companies with the aid of ample federal government subsidy (Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch), or, er, filed for bankruptcy and disappeared (Lehman Brothers)–has left an absolutely gigantic vacuum for start-ups who now know that the only way to survive is to stay relatively small.

In Big Law and Small Business, I noted that the ABA Journal reports that for the first quarter of the year approximately 7,000 attorneys and staff have lost their jobs in addition to canceled summer programs, postponed first-year associate start-dates, and pay cuts across the board including partners. Not a pretty picture for the 43,000 imminent law-school graduates about to enter the legal job market. But at the same time, many of the smaller law firms and boutique law firms are doing very well, thank you.

So what does it all of this mean? Well, there are at least two ways to look at it.

There’s Seth Godin who said in his brilliant blog post, Small is the New Big. In the recent recession, it seem more right-on and prescient. And if all this seems pretty obvious to you, Seth wrote this in June, 2005.

And then there’s Dylan who in the climatic lines of the final verse of The Times They Are a-Changin’ wrote and sang:

The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

Here, take a look and listen yourself:

Lyrics | Bob Dylan lyricsThe Times They Are A-Changin’ lyrics