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AbeKrash(2008),TheChangingLegalProfession

*notethattheessayisinfirstpersonsoanyIsormyswillofcourserefertoKrash.
GrowthintheProfession
Whataccountsforthisexplosivegrowthintheprofession?

InTheMaterialBasisofJurisprudence,JudgeRichardPosneradvancedanexplanationthatI
findconvincing.Posnerarguedthelegalprofessioninthe1950swasessentiallyacartel,inhis
words,anintricatelyandingeniouslyreticulatedthoughimperfectcartel.
Ahalfcenturyago,barrierstoentryintotheprofessionweresubstantiallyreinforcedbylawfirms
throughgender,racial,religious,andethnicdiscrimination.Thecartelwasprotectedbythe
governmentbystatutesandcourtrules.
AsJudgePosnerpointedout,thesituationbegantochangearound1960.Thecartelwas
shattered,andtheprofessionbecameintenselycompetitive.Today,thereissignificant
competitioninnearlyallareasofpractice:forlegalbusiness,infeesthatarecharged,for
attractivelateralentrants,andinthehiringofassociates.
Posnerpointsoutthatthedisappearanceofthecartelinthelegalprofessionwasaconsequence
ofasurgeindemandforlegalservices.Ashenotes,thecausesforthissurgearenotaltogether
clear.Posnerstatesitwasassociated,amongotherfactors,withthecreationofnewrights,much
highercrimerates,greatlyrelaxedrulesofstanding[tosue],moregenerouslegalremedies
(includingrelaxedstandardsforclassactions)aspartofageneraltiltinfavorofcivilplaintiffs
andagainstcivildefendants,andtheincreasedsubsidizationoflawyersforindigentcriminal
defendantsandindigentcivilplaintiffs.
Inaddition,newareasofpracticeemerged.Example:environmentallaw,healthcare,housing,
andenergylaw.Thelawrelatingtopatents,trademarks,andcopyrightswasviewedasa
relativelyunimportantsubjectbackthen

FromPartnershiptoCorporate

Bypartnershipmode,Imeananinstitutioninwhichinterpersonalrelationsareinfluencedby
friendship,collegiality,andloyaltytoonespartnersandthefirm;byacorporatemode,Imean
aninstitutioninwhichinterpersonalrelationsaredominatedbyconsiderationsofprofitability.
Therehasbeenamajorchangeamonglawfirmsinthepersonalrelationsamongpartnersand
betweenpartnersandassociates.Therelationsthatprevailarecharacteristicoflargebusiness
organizations.
Manylawyerswhowerepracticinginthe1950sand1960sspeakwithnostalgiaofcollegiality
andcamaraderieamongthefirmsmembersatthattime.Thepartnersinafirmknewoneanother
andsocializedtogether.Mergersamonglawfirmswerealmostunknown.Allofthishaschanged.
Largesizemakescollegialityextremelydifficult.Howcanonepossiblyknow400or500
colleaguesscatteredindifferentcitiesthroughouttheworld?Decisionssuchasthoserelatingto
compensation,thatwereonceinfluencedinsignificantpartbytradition,loyalty,andregardfor
pastcontributionstothefirm,aredeterminedbybottomline,objectivefactors.
Inadditiontochangesininterpersonalrelationshipswithinthefirm,therehavebeensignificant
changesinclientrelationsoflargefirms.Manyclientsinthe1950sand1960sviewedtheir
lawyersastrustedadvisorsandcounselors.Manylawyerswhopracticed30or40yearsagohave
remarkedtomeabouttheabsenceofclientloyalty,whichmeansexcellentperformanceona
particularmatterdoesnotguaranteebeingretainedinfuturematters.

Theextensivemovementofpartnersfromonefirmtoanotherisamongthedramaticchangesthat
haveoccurredintheprofessionsincethe1950s.Itwasalmostunthinkableinthateraforapartner
tocontemplatejoiningarivalfirm.Today,itiscommon.Thisphenomenonreflects,inpart,a
breakdowninthespiritofcollegialityandloyaltytoonespartnersthatcharacterizedlawfirms
halfacenturyago.Italsoevidencesthedominanceamongindividuallawyersoffinancial
considerationsaswellastheintenselycompetitivecharacterofpresentdaypracticethatprompts
afirmtopursueapartnerfromanotherfirmtostrengthenitscompetitivepositionand
profitability.

Money
Collegialityhasbeendamagedbythereplacementofpartnercompensationsystemsbasedon
senioritywithsystemspredicatedonbusinessgeneration.Sinceitisfrequentlynotclearwhoina
largefirmisresponsiblefororiginatingaparticularmatter,disputesarisebetweendifferent
partnersconcerningtheallocationofbillingcreditforpurposesofdeterminingcompensation.
Thus,insteadofpromotingcooperationandcamaraderie,thecompensationsystemmayengender
rivalryandrancor.Suchsystemsarejustifiedonthegroundsthattobeeconomicallyviable,alaw
firmneedsasteadyinflowofnewmatters,andthereneedstobeanincentivetoproducesuch
matters.Itisarguedthatpartnerswhosucceedindoingsoshouldberewarded.Giventhe
economicsofthecurrentlawpractice,thatisacompellingargument.
Someoftheextraordinarygrowthinlawyerscompensationcanbedatedtotheearly1980swhen
largecorporatetakeoverfightsoccupiedcenterstage.Lawyersengagedinsuchbattlesnotedthat
theircounterpartsininvestmentbankingfirmswererealizingenormousincomes.Theycould
perceivenolegitimatebasisfortheincomedifferential.Therewasmountingpressuretoincrease
feesandescalateprofitability.
Specialization
Inthe1950s,itwaspossibleforyounglawyersinWashingtontoaspiretobeageneralist.It
wouldbedifficultforayounglawyertodaytohandlesuchabroadrangeofmatters.Clientsseek
outspecialistswhohaveexpertiseinaparticulararea.Theywantlawyerswhohavehadprevious
experiencewithsimilarmatters.Withinashorttimeafterentryintofirms,younglawyersare
directedtoaparticularareaofpractice,andtheyareexpectedtocultivateexpertisewithrespect
toaspecificsubject.
Thereis,ofcourse,bothadownsideandanupsidetospecialization.Lawyersdogainadeeper,
widerknowledgeofaparticulararea.Asageneralrule,clientsbenefitfromthistrend.Onthe
otherhand,specialistsmaylosethecapacitytoseeconnectionsandrelationshipswithotherareas,
andtheytendtobecomenarrowerandlessimaginative.
Hours
Firmsthatdonothavebillablehourquotastakeintoaccountthenumberofbillablehoursbyan
associateinmakingdecisionswithrespecttoadvancement;associatesaremadeawarethathigh
billablehoursareaplusfactorinelectiontopartnership,andthatbillablehoursbelowthe
averageofonescontemporariesposeahandicap.Anyassociatewithambitionstoadvanceto
partnermustsatisfythesequotas.Thesepressuresarenotlimitedtoassociatestherecordsof
partnersalsoarescrutinized,andpartnerswithlowbillablehoursmaybequestionedby
compensationcommittees,incurfinancialpenalties,andhavetheiradvancementimpeded.
BranchOffices
Thebranchofficedevelopmentbylawfirmshasparalleledtheglobalizationofbusiness
organizations.Thisphenomenoninlegalpracticereflectsthebeliefthatlargemultinational

corporationsprefertouselawyersinthesamefirm.Theirbusinessoperationsarefarflung,and
corporationsdeemitadvantageoustohaveoutsidecounselinthesamegeographicareasastheir
businessoperations.Inaddition,manytransactionshavemultinationalaspects.
o Multibranchofficespresentanumberofissues.First,operationsofthismagnitude
requirealargecommitmentofmanagerialandadministrativeresources,anditisamajor
challengetointegratesuchbrancheswithoneanother.
o Second,whenafirmissowidelyscattered,itisvirtuallyimpossibletospeakofa
commonfirmculture.
o Third,itisdifficulttomakedecisionsbasedonauniformfirmwidepolicy.Differences
incompetitiveconditionsmayforcethefirmtocompensatelawyersinsomecities
differentlyfromlawyersinothercities,whichcanbedivisive.
o Fourth,ethicalissues,suchasproblemsrelatingtoconflictsinrepresentation,multiply.
Divergentethicalrulesindifferentjurisdictionsalsoraisetroublesomeissues.
TrainingYoungLawyers
Althoughlargefirmscontinuetoperformthistrainingfunction,ithasbeenadverselyaffectedby
increasedfinancialpressures.Associatesarepressedtoworkahighnumberofbillablehours,and
thislimitstheamountoftimeavailablefortraining.Thesupervisionandfeedbackinvolvedin
trainingtakestime,andpartnersgenerallyhavelesstimeavailableforthatpurpose.Thismay
resultinincreasedoutsourcingoftrainingandadiminutionofinhousetraining.
AsJudgeRifkindnoted,anapprenticeshipunderagoodmasterisacriticalpartoflearningthe
craftoflawyering.Inthepast,whenfirmsweresmaller,partnersknewmanyoftheassociates,
andtheyhadaninterestintrainingthemforthereasonthatagoodlynumberofassociateswould
becomepartnersinthefuture.
EthicsandProfessionalResponsibility
Ethicalstandardshavebeenweakenedbycompensationsystemsgearedtobusinessgeneration,
economicpressuretomeetfirmbudgets,andtheintensecompetitionforlegalbusiness.Nearly
everyoneofthechangesintheprofessionIhavedescribedhasgeneratedproblemsof
professionalresponsibility.
Thesearchfornewlegalbusinesshasgeneratedsolicitationpracticesunimaginableahalfcentury
ago.Manylawfirmsnowhavedepartmentsthatdevelopmarketingstrategiesforattractingnew
clients.
Thelargefeeschargedforamajormattersuchasrepresentationinacorporatetenderoffer
battleorthefeesnowsoughtbycounselinclassactioncasesandmergershaveshatteredlong
acceptednotionsofareasonablefee.Feesofthismagnitudehaveunderminedthenotion
lawyersaremembersofalearnedprofessionratherthanbusinesspersons.
NewDemographics:WOMEN
Manywomenunderstandablyfinditdifficulttosatisfythesedemandsandexpectations
consistentlywithobligationstheyfeeltowardtheirfamilies.Theyaremuchmorelikelythanmen
toseekleavesofabsenceandworkassignmentsthatdonotentailsuchcommitments,whichin
turnaffectopportunitiesforadvancement.
Womenlawyersandjudgessignificantlyhaveinfluencedthesubstantivelawinanumberof
areas,suchasgenderdiscrimination,domesticviolence,andthelawpertainingtoreproductive
rights.Itisnotyetclearhowtheincreaseinthenumberofwomenlawyerswillaffectthemanner
inwhichlawispracticed.Willitleadtochangesinthelawfirmsworkethicassuggestedby
ProfessorLangbein?Thepotentialramificationsofthefeminizationoftheprofessionremain
obscure.

NewDemographics:BLACKPEOPLE
ProfessorSanderoftheUnversityofCaliforniastatesthatblackassociatestendtobeperceived
bypartnersaslessableandthatminorityassociatesquicklyfindthemselvesreceivingfarless
mentoringandtrainingthantheywant,performinglesschallengingtasks,fewersubstantive
assignments,andnotdevelopingthecloseinformalrelationshipswithpartnersthatwillbe
signifiedbyregularsocialinteraction.Theyfindthemselvesmarginalizedandsuperfluous,and
theirpredictionsthattheywillnotbelongwiththefirmarefullyborneout.
Thesituationappearstobeimproving,albeitveryslowly.Oneofthemosthelpfuldevelopments
isdeeperawarenessoftheproblemandadesiretoimplementchangesthatwillyieldmeaningful
diversity.
Technology
Thenewinformationtechnologyhasbeenanimportantfactorinreshapingthewaylawis
practiced.Themegalawfirmwithnumerousbranchofficeswouldnothaveemergedinthe
absenceofcomputers.
Technologyhaschangedlegalpracticeinmanyways.
o First,ithasrelievedassociatesofsometasksthatwereoncelaboriousandtime
consuming.Itisnowpossibletosaywithconsiderablecertaintythatasearchforallof
therelevantprecedentsorstatutesinallofthestatesonaparticularpointoflawis
comprehensive,orthatallofthethousandsofdocumentswithrespecttosomeissuehave
beenreviewed.
o Second,ithasimprovedafirmsabilitytomanagetransactionsandthosesituations
wheredocumentsarestandardizedandneedonlybeadaptedtotheparticularmatter.
o Third,inalargecaseinvolvingmanylawyerswithinthefirm,itisnowpossibleto
communicaterapidlywithcolleagues.Lawyerslocatedinbranchofficesindifferent
citieswhoareworkingonthesamecaseortransactioncanquicklyexchangeinformation.
o Fourth,ithasfacilitateddepositionandtrialpractice.Toillustrate:Alawyertakingor
defendingadepositioncaninstantlygainaccesstorelevantdocuments.
o Fifth,newtechnologyhasimprovedcommunicationswithclients.
FindingthatFire
Giventhepresenteconomicstructureoftheprofession,Iwonderwhetherwewillseea
renaissanceofthatspiritamongyounglawyers.Thereareexcitingchallengesconfrontingthe
professiontheinternationalizationofmanylegalissuesandthepressingneedforreformofour
systemofcivilandcriminaljustice.Perhaps,thesemayinspirearenewalofthespiritthat
prevailedahalfcenturyago.