Law is derived from logic and experience. It has rules to govern its application, penalties for its violation, and remedies for those aggrieved. Yet it tends to be slow, unpredictable, unnecessarily complicated at times, and selectively enforced at others. And then there are the paradoxes that make law even more enigmatic. Here are a few:
- The rapidly expanding number of unemployed/under-employed lawyers and the access to justice crisis;
- The “broken” BigLaw model and the hegemony BigLaw retains over the outsourced work of the nation’s largest corporate legal consumers;
- The explosion of “legal” work created by e-discovery when IT is intended to promote efficiency and reduce work;
- The dramatic rise in the cost of legal education and the decline in legal jobs;
- New lawyers (burdened with unprecedented debt levels) and the harsh reality that most are not “market ready” upon graduation;
- The proliferation of career placement personnel and their characteristic lack of practice experience;
- Law schools’ emphasis on “legal scholarship” and the admission by the Chief Justice that he rarely reads Law Review articles;
- The push for better value among corporate legal consumers and their resistance to fixed-price billing and legal service providers with new economic models;
- The value drumbeat (reprised) and the steady rise of hourly rates (notwithstanding negotiated rack rates);
- The recognition of globalization and the Balkanized regulations that inhibit global practice;
And the biggest paradox of them all: the commodization of legal task and lawyers’ persistence that what they do is bespoke.
It is time to address these paradoxes so that the lawyers can be happier engaging in practice; clients achieve the value they are seeking; and the underserved can engage legal representation–appropriately supervised and priced–by those capable young lawyers in need of practice experience. As for legal education, as I noted in “Teach Your Children Well”, it is time for meaningful curriculum change that addresses the needs and identifies the opportunities of the current legal landscape.