Both Dean Kronman in The Lost Lawyer and Professor Glendon in A Nation Under Lawyers attribute some of the problems and challenges facing lawyers today to economic pressures and to a preoccupation with profits and fees. For Kronman, this economic focus interferes with the “moral detachment” necessary for achievement of the “lawyer-statesman” ideal. For Glendon, professional dilemmas caused by the deterioration of the legal economy, competition in the marketplace, lawyer-shopping by clients, early specialization, lack of mentoring and emphasis on the billable hour have created an unhappy generation of ethically challenged practitioners.
Both authors accurately assess the state of the legal profession today. Their insight reveals a profession in a state of dramatic change and, as in most changes of this magnitude (a “sea change,” as it were), confusion reigns. Professor Glendon describes another legal evolution of comparable scale: the movement from the primacy of common law to that of legislation and regulation, with all of its attendant dislocation. As is usually the case, the profession has adapted to those changes, and it will have to adapt to the current changes or risk irrelevancy as clients find other service providers or other ways to deal with their problems.
The economic pressures in the law firm today are real and the focus on profitability necessary. But these challenges need not cause a lawyer or a firm to compromise detachment professionalism, ethical practices, or competent lawyering. Effective management and good business practices are not inconsistent with traditional “professional” lawyering. To the contrary, they are essential in today’s complex economic environment and will be even more essential in the future.
Law Firm Economics and Professionalism,
Dick. L. Rev.
Available at: http://ideas.dickinsonlaw.psu.edu/dlr/vol122/iss1/20