the United States. The business model
for how lawyers do their work is changing as well. More than half of our members practice as a solo or in a small-firm
setting, and these numbers are increasing as new attorneys emerge into the
market to fewer opportunities in the
large firms and public sector.
New lawyers are demanding a work-life balance and using technology to
make this balance more of a reality. With
remote technology and other options to
do our work at locations other than a
physical desk, I think newer lawyers offer hope for our profession in showing us
that one can attend their son’s or daughter’s — or even their own — soccer game
and still get the work done.
After decades of hearing that the billable hour is coming to an end, we are actually seeing a major shift toward alternative fee arrangements, that is, value-based
billing that provides predictable expenses
for the client and a more effective delivery
model for lawyers. The billable hour has
long been cited as the root cause of lawyer
dissatisfaction with the profession and client dissatisfaction with lawyers. Much of
this drive to change billing structures is
coming from corporate clients, as general
counsels are getting pressure from ceos
and cFos to contain costs and meet annual legal-fee budgets.
our clients are changing. Lawyers are
expensive, and people want to spend as
little as possible. clients are using technology more; Legal Zoom boasts some
two million satisfied customers. cyber-settle is settling claims with no lawyers
involved at all, with more than $1.9 billion in settlements performed. We cannot
ignore the impact technology will have
on our profession. Just think about how
you get your newspaper today, how you
read a book, or how you download music
in this day and age and we can appreciate how technology has impacted many
When I give this presentation to law
students or new lawyers, I’m always worried that they’re wondering what in the
world they have gotten themselves into.
But I encourage them that this is a time
of great opportunity if we seize it, and I
tell them that they are coming into the
profession at an exciting time when we all
have great opportunity to influence the
future of the profession and better serve
the needs of the consuming public.
Here are my thoughts for how we
For the profession: We must innovate.
First, with respect to the court system
and judicial system funding, we need
to ask ourselves what the judiciary of
the 21st century should look like. our
judicial system was created hundreds of
years ago and it is time to rethink how
the judiciary delivers its services. The
public accesses information and services in a different manner now and our
profession needs to keep up.
Second, we as a profession need to
own that we have made the system too
complicated. While no one set out to
reach this result deliberately, we must
work to simplify things. I’m a lawyer and
there are numerous things that I can’t
figure out without a lawyer. I don’t mean
to discount the importance of the nuances that have developed over time in
numerous areas of law, but coordination
and simplification of the system in many
areas might be a good starting point.
Third, we need to acknowledge that
some people can navigate the system on
their own and we need to give them the
tools to do so. The reality is we will never
have enough lawyers to serve every person facing a legal problem, so we must
work to find ways for people to do some
things on their own or with the help of
new legal professionals such as the limited license legal technicians.
For the academy: We must refocus.
The third year of law school needs to
change. If we’re not going to do away
with it, then we must refocus it to be a
practical training experience. Something all of you are very well versed in.
I’ve heard much comment that the first-year curriculum is where the change
is needed, but there seems to be a corresponding feeling that there isn’t the
stomach to do so.
Law schools need to diversify the edu-
cation they deliver. We produce out of the
academy a one-size-fits-all legal profes-
sional, but the needs of the consuming
public have never been one-size-fits-all.
Law schools should be embracing new
models like the limited license legal tech-
nician and other possible educational
tracks that may not lead to the traditional,
fully licensed attorney. I’m pleased that
the law schools in our state are stepping
up to the plate with us here as we work
to implement the Limited License Legal
Technician program, working closely
with the community colleges in our state
to develop an educational delivery sys-
tem for these new legal professionals.
How we produce legal scholarship
needs to be reconsidered. As a former
editor-in-chief of a law review, I could
never understand what 2Ls and 3Ls
could possibly know about the cutting-edge issues of the law and the profession, yet we were charged with reviewing and selecting articles for publication
in professional journals.
So why does any of this matter? I’ll
close with where I started: we are not
serving the consuming public.
And when the consuming public gets
fed up, they go to their legislators and
the executive. And, when legislators and
the executive have agitated constituents,
what do they do? — they act. We are seeing this trend around the world (in england, Ireland, and Australia) — where the
profession is losing elements of self-regu-lation as the government steps in to take
over certain elements of legal regulation
in response to consumer pressure.
And as we know, without an independent profession, you cannot have an
independent judiciary, and without an
independent judiciary, you cannot have
a system that is based on the rule of law.
So to me, what’s at stake is well beyond
legal education — and it is well beyond
the profession — what’s at stake is the
core of what we understand to be the
cornerstone of our democracy. And that
is the rule of law.
I invite you — indeed I encourage
you — to ride out and let’s surf the wave
Paula Littlewood is the WSBA executive director and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-239-2120.
1. For more information on the Task Force
please visit www.americanbar.org/groups/
2. “Let’s Seize the Moment,” Dec./Jan 2013
lawyer/201301/?pg= 13&pm= 2&u1=friend;
“Moving Forward,” Feb. 2013 NWLawyer,
02/?pg= 13&pm= 2&u1=friend; “The changing Legal Services Market,” Apr./May 2013
wyer/201304/?pg= 11&pm= 1&u1=friend.