Musings in the Key of LPosted June 4, 2013 by Articles & Publications, The Law and Other Musings in
I graduated from law school 40 years ago this June. The first 10 years of my career were peripatetic; four years with a Wall Street firm, two years with a regional DC firm, two years as an in-house attorney and two years with a firm that, in one guise or another, morphed into the firm I'm with today.
Forty years ago, lawyering was a still somewhat "gentlemanly" vocation. When I started on Wall Street, typically, you either made partner after seven years or moved on to another position, in-house or with another firm, where you assumed that, in all likelihood, you'd stay for the remainder of your career. Free agency hadn't come to the profession and it hadn't quite become the bottom-line business that it is today.
Back then I remember a client asking for a breakdown of an invoice that was submitted and the billing partner refusing to provide one. Try that today.
In 1973, the profession was predominantly white and male. Compare that with today where, according to the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession, women make up one-third of the profession¹; surprisingly, however, according to the February 2013 issue of The Network Journal, only three percent are African-American² and, perhaps less surprisingly, three percent are Hispanic³.
Today, the practice of law is a business, which has manifested itself in many ways, one being, at least in this economy, the much tighter job prospects for newly-minted lawyers. Yet law schools still graduate about 40,000 law students annually4 and career satisfaction over a 23-year period beginning in 1984 remained relatively stable at roughly 79%5.
Another manifestation of the business nature of the practice of law is marketing, which is now a major part of all law firms' business plans. Google "law firm marketing" and up pop a plethora of consultants and marketing firms targeting the legal industry, law marketing bloggers and a trade association targeted at legal marketing, the Legal Marketing Association6, which, admittedly, has been around since 1985.
So, what does this all mean? These are my musings; I can't offer any overall conclusion but, clearly, the profession - and the business - of law have changed. My sense is that these changes are ongoing and the profession will continue to evolve for the foreseeable future.