Vol. 85, No. 11, November 2012
It has long been said that an attorney is part of an honored profession. True. The "honored profession" idea conjures up thoughts of the fair and educated advocate. We have been taught to think like a lawyer, but if we ask today what it takes to be a lawyer, the answer will take us well beyond the notion of a conventional law school education.
To be a lawyer is to use skill acquired over time by practice, and by actually doing things associated with practice. However, in today's environment, others – nonlawyers – can also acquire that skill, to varying degrees. If part of a lawyer's skill is obtaining information and using it to make decisions, then others can master that skill. An obvious example is the unauthorized practice of law. A more subtle example is the modern client who has done substantial homework. All similar examples erode certain business aspects of the practice of law.
Being an attorney and having practiced day in and day out, I don't want to glorify the skill level of these others. Lawyers should be handling legal matters. But I also know from over 30 years of experience that we cannot ignore what is going on around us. Simply saying we are lawyers does not save the day in our current environment. The big-picture question is: How do we harness our legal training, combined with learned skills, and move forward in a way beneficial to the profession and the public?
There is no one answer and perhaps no easy answer. That realization results in the conclusion that the State Bar of today, and tomorrow, cannot be the same Bar we had 10 years ago, or perhaps even a few years ago. More each day, our organization is being thrust into the center of new and difficult issues: education, skill, business, and change. We know about UPL and the technology explosion. Then add in lack of skills/practical training; decreases in rural attorneys; law school debt and lack of employment for young attorneys; and the public, for various reasons, not hiring attorneys. You can certainly add to this list if you analyze your circumstances.
For its part, the Bar must partner with you and me, the members, to provide value. To do so, the Bar must know what is happening with members and what their needs are. I am constantly opening new member/Bar lines of communication so member information is shared. We have committees and task forces addressing specific issues. We have asked the Bar to complete a business plan. We have urged advancement with a focus on new ideas and solutions now rather than being tied up with delay or "why we can't." My message has long been "Get It Done," and we are.
For your part, please keep communicating and providing that valuable feedback. Join your leaders in setting the tone for the future of lawyers and our profession. And a big thanks to everyone for their efforts. Happy Thanksgiving!