Friday, November 16, 2012
I have written a book called The Vanishing American Lawyer. My premise is not that too few people have a legal education. I say, instead, that what people now do with legal training is changing rapidly and likely will continue to become more diverse. That leaves me suggesting that there is little left to the general concept of being a lawyer.
Yet people still talk about lawyers, and the question of what it means to be a lawyer is especially timely in light of current American Bar Association efforts to revise the standards by which American law schools are accredited. That ABA project, in turn, must necessarily begin-at least implicitly-with the question of what kind of people law schools are charged with producing. That is the question I hope to address in this article; and my answer will be that the products of today's and tomorrow's legal education will need to be different than those that professors have trained up to now.
What is Happening to Law Practice That Will Change What It Means To Be a Lawyer?
The traditional working definition of a lawyer has been someone licensed to engage in the “practice of law.” But that definition is circular; it presupposes that we know what it means to practice law. The practice of law, in turn, has been said to consist of applying the whole body of law to a specific client's question or problem. That definition might seem broad enough to let the idea of being a lawyer remain constant. But changes from globalization, to the way clients get information, to the skills needed to perform many legal tasks foreshadow significant changes in what lawyers will actually do over the next twenty years and beyond.