upon Julius Henry Cohen’s classic 1916 work, 'The Law: Business or
Profession?' this essay explains that the challenges facing the legal
profession today are not new and that in current debates lawyers,
judges, and law professors too often rely on inaccurate assumptions
regarding the history of the legal profession. In particular, this essay identifies five crises facing the legal profession today that
parallel challenges at the turn of the twentieth century: (1)
determining whether law is a business or a profession; (2) debating
whether lawyers have responsibility for civic and business leadership;
(3) considering whether lawyers should have control of the market for
legal services; (4) promoting reform of legal education; and (5)
managing increased diversity. The essay argues that placing these
crises in historical context reveals that the legal profession’s
responses to these dilemmas have varied over time, suggests that today’s
status quo is neither traditional nor inevitable, and seeks to create
space for rethinking assumptions that underpin our current debates.
Calling litigation finance a growing but "risky" field, the Wall Street Journal reports on two big third-party investments that have lately gone bust. A number of
specialty firms now maintain multimillion-dollar portfolios devoted to
legal investments in litigation, and some hedge funds and individual investors also purchase stakes in litigation as part of a broader
investment strategy. (From 2010, here's our first post in the Annals of Champerty.)
In the National Jurist's "The Coming Lawyer Shortage," Loyola Los Angeles tax law professor Theodore Seto looks at the drop in law school enrollments and the aging lawyer population and predicts a bright future -- very soon -- for the thousands of young J.D.s stranded on the Great Recession underemployment island:
Unless something truly extraordinary has happened to non-cyclical demand, a degrees-awarded per capita analysis suggests that beginning in the fall of 2015 and intensifying into 2016 employers are likely to experience an undersupply of law grads, provided that the economic recovery continues.
Most people will fixate on the proviso "provided the economic recovery continues" as the key equivocation in the prediction, but it is the other caveat -- "unless something truly extraordinary has happened" -- that frames the most important question about the legal labor market today. Has something extraordinary happened? Legal futurists like Richard Susskind and Jordan Furlong say yes, that consumers of legal services will no longer buy the full-legal-services, no-questions-asked, billable hour product. Skeptics like Brian Tannenbaum think the futurists are essentially fantasists.
SBM Blog will keep you informed as the debate rages and the future calls the game.
A new calculator from the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System lets you customize your inquiry by state, region, various rankings, and various types of employment. The data for Michigan law schools for full-time, bar-passage required jobs, excluding solo practitioners, shows Michigan, Wayne State, and MSU College of Law beating their 2011 numbers in 2012.
Apply the thoughts of one of our brightest thinkers about the future of the legal profession to the lucid ideas of one of our brightest thinkers about the medical world (and beyond), and what do you get? Jordan Furlong's "Why Lawyers Don't Innovate," a short meditation on Atul Gawande's New Yorker piece, "Slow Ideas," which explores why some good ideas take off and others have trouble getting off the ground. Simple takeaway? Change requires us talking to one another about what's really going on. Both pieces are well worth reading. Best line from Fulong's piece:
People do what they feel like doing, and most lawyers feel like doing today what they did yesterday.
Our first group is the Michigan feeder schools. The second is the rest of the Big Ten. The third is some classic elites plus Rice, which falls at the extreme end of the decline. Don't overlook the schools with increases -- Wayne State, Indiana, and, with a startling increase, Rutgers. This is early data, and it's very hard to tell what this means for the future of the profession if the trends continue. But definitely worth some watching, and some thought.
In January 2015, qualified employers must provide health care coverage under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 or face a fine. As employers actively attempt to minimize the costs that they will incur, the possibility emerges that employers will retaliate against or harass employees who seek coverage. This Essay discusses the protections for employees under the law and the possible deficiencies in the law. It shows that employers and employees often have contrasting incentives – employers to avoid coverage, and employees to take coverage – and these incentives may result in employer harassment and retaliation of employees. Presently, in an analogous context, employees often raise retaliation claims after they have complained of discrimination, and these claims have had significant success. Because of similarities between these situations, comparable retaliation under the ACA is likely, and perhaps it will occur even more due to the significant specific costs that employers face under the ACA.
The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.) has stories on the topic here and here.
An interesting chart at Associate's Mind compares population growth and lawyer population growth in the U.S. from 1878 to today. The accompanying text explains:
While US population growth has been low (and dwindling) for decades, the
amount of lawyers being produced has continued at a breakneck pace –
particularly in the 1970s. The growth rate of the number of lawyers
being produced only eased up after the original dot-com boom at the turn
of the century.
An analysis of lawyer demographics is a hot topic today given speculation about how the market will react to the removal of Baby Boomer lawyers from the supply chain.
In a Lansing State Journal story on Sunday, "Cooley Law School Weathering Decline in Enrollment," Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc says that in the face of an ongoing recession in the market for lawyers, Cooley's entering class is "significantly smaller" than in recent years, tuition in going up, and admission standards are holding steady, for now. As he has in the past, Dean LeDuc expressed confidence in the recovery of the market for lawyers in three or four years, given historical patterns and the inevitable (at some point) departure of Baby Boomer lawyers from the legal scene. And in response, as he has in the past, Above The Law's Elie Mystal fulminates about job prospects for Cooley's grads and the cost of tuition.