Has the Practice of Law Changed?
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Recently, I had the privilege of attending a celebration for two friends who have been practicing law for 50 years. That is a righteous period to perform good services for people. These two lawyers have done that. I aspire to that goal, but it has made me explore what our profession has become and what I should be doing to accomplish my goal.
In my opinion, the legal profession has traveled the road away from professionalism and toward commercialization. The public is bombarded with ads from lawyers. Advertising is now an accepted practice, justified by the argument that more people are aware of lawyers and therefore have greater access to the justice system. I am skeptical of that premise. There is an enormous number of people who self represent themselves, in divorce cases, landlord tenant cases, and most notably, in foreclosure actions. It was a woman representing herself in the Federal District Court who convinced the Court that banks should have the original loan documents before they can foreclose. That brave soul caused a revolution in the mortgage and banking business. Her pro se representation was an embarrassment for the legal profession: she could find no one to represent her despite ubiquitous advertising. Advertising does not advance access to justice; it does however commoditize good legal representation.
Today there is ample opportunity to find inexpensive do it yourself legal services from sources like Legal Zoom for individuals and businesses. On the other end of the spectrum, there are the very expensive international mega firms serving the interests of individuals and businesses involved in global pursuits. I think the public could be well served by the spectrum of those offerings. In addition, there is a promise that technology can democratize justice by broadening availability to the masses, and reducing the costs of discovery. Predictive software is projecting that it can replace human experience and expertise.
For me, a small cog somewhere in the middle of the legal spectrum, I thrive and I think my clients thrive on the personalized services that I offer. Not merely the task of writing a simple will, a short contract, or splitting out a series of question for discovery, but in the discussion, education and experience that accompanies or precedes the task.
If you are reading this short piece, you and I have a connection. The connection may be by one degree of separation or perhaps three degrees of separation but the connection is there and rewardingly palpable, at least from my end and hopefully yours. I am often asked what my specialty of law is. I like to say that I represent people and businesses that find themselves in an ever-complex world and who need help navigating through that complexity. It might be a life plan, estate plan, business formation or succession, capitalization methods, mergers and acquisitions, real estate matters, contracts or protection of intellectual property.
Over the years, in addition to the practices of law I have just described, I have also been deep into charitable works, community service and on occasion Pro Bono representation. I have done it because it makes me feel good and confirms my role in a community of like interests.
I think my goal of a 50-year practice is real and rewarding. It is not quixotic. I like people, I like to provide valued services, and I like being a trusted advisor. Through these newsletters I have learned much for your feedback, I would be honored if you would continue to provide me with that feedback.
On my community service news, you might be interested to know that in the second year of the land development project I previously wrote about, the real estate developers, after hiring a professional lobbying firm finally prevailed and a wonderful open space will give way to 11 homes with a road that dissects the highline canal trail. On the one hand, I was deeply saddened by the local political cave in, on the other it invigorated me to continue the participation in preserving community interests.