It’s that time of year again when gifts are exchanged—and returned; resolutions are made—and quickly breached; and hopes for the future abound—so long as one does not watch the news or follow social media. So in the spirit of the season, and recognizing that what follows is decidedly aspirational, here is my holiday wish list for the legal vertical.
- Law schools drop their fees significantly, cut their administrative staffs, adopt a 2 year JD program, put more emphasis on practical skills and teaching– less on faculty research, work with employers to ensure students acquire “market ready skills” upon graduating, restructure outdated curricula and add courses such as drafting contracts and pleadings, process management, basic IT for lawyers, legal accounting, data management, etc., and hire Career Placement Directors with a knowledge of what is happening in the legal marketplace as well as experience and contacts in the field.
- The U.S. News and World Report , together with other mainstream publications engaged in the seductive ranking practice, stop acting like ESPN or the Coaches Poll and do away—or place less emphasis on—law school rankings. (Yes, I know it sells and rivets us in much the same warped way as Smart Phones do). The rankings breed game-playing which in no way benefits students or prospective employers.
- Law students are required to sign an informed consent agreement confirming they have been furnished and have reviewed and understand verified employment and financial data (as relates to student debt and jobs) both as to their law school and nationally. They are also required to read the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on lawyer alcoholism, drug abuse, job (dis)satisfaction, divorce, depression, and suicide.
- The ABA commissions a Blue Ribbon Panel to investigate and make specific recommendations to ameliorate said findings (which rank lawyers just under coal miners in most of those categories).
- And while we are on the subject of Blue Ribbon Panels, let’s form another one devoted to addressing the paradoxical situation of the surfeit of unemployed and under-employed lawyers and the access to justice crisis. (See “The Fat Middle” and “The Lean Middle.”)
- And one more while we’re on a roll: The ABA should support States’ adoption of a U.S. version of the UK’s Legal Services Act of 2007. Sir David Clementi, whose stunning Report spawned passage of the Act, painstakingly documented that corporate and retail legal providers generally fail to deliver value relative to cost; that public confidence in lawyers has eroded sharply; that law is a business; and that the infusion of outside capital (already occurring in many different guises in the U.S.) will not necessarily result in a perpetual conflict of interest. Note: the Report is a must-read for lawyers.
- The bright-line distinction often drawn between in-house and outside counsel be obliterated, because it masks the fundamental fact that both are lawyers who should find ways to work collaboratively to further the best interest of the client. Escalating—and competing—economic tensions and interests have all-too-often created a zero-sum dynamic between these two categories of lawyers.
- Lawyers recognize that for the vast majority of them, the practice of law will not return to what it was pre-2008. The choice is either to better understand the new landscape, adapt as best one can, and attempt to embrace change or to confront perpetual uncertainty, diminished income, and a wistful resentment for the way things were versus the way they are now.
- “Bespoke” be removed from the legal lexicon except in those rare instances when everyone knows it applies.
- “Alternative Provider”, likewise, be jettisoned from legal parlance. It is an amorphous term which, as a moniker, is like placing a flea-ridden collar on a dog.
- RFP’s go the way of the buggy whip to be replaced by crowdsourcing or just plain making a decision who to source the work to.
- An acknowledgement that technology is neither a panacea nor a death-knell for lawyers.
- A similar acknowledgement that collaboration will be an increasingly important element in legal education and practice.
- A resolution by each and every lawyer to restore pubic confidence, trust, and integrity to the legal profession. Oh, but resolutions are rarely followed, are they? Well, if even some followed through with this, we would all be well served. Let’s settle for trying to curb laughter when tee shirts are donned reading, “Trust me, I’m a Lawyer.”
Happy Holidays! I hope your wishes are granted.