The Relevant Lawyer – New Book From ABA Publishing

Later this week the American Bar Association will publish The Relevant Lawyer: Reimagining the Future of the Legal Profession, a collection of essays on the future of the profession. It includes two chapters written by members of Slaw.

Details of how to get the book itself are here. We’ll publish a full review in Slaw shortly.


Sharing expert insights on how and why the profession of law is changing in fundamental ways and how it will impact lawyers, the authors of this thought-provoking 20-chapter book will advance and sharpen the dialogue within the bar about accelerating disruption of the legal services marketplace, and how best to adapt. The collected wisdom and legal expertise in this book will help individual lawyers, law firms, law students, and bar associations better visualize and plan for their own futures in the law. The Relevant Lawyer: Reimagining the Future of the Legal Profession represents the vision and commitment of the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism, deriving from and supporting their vital purpose of preserving, protecting, and advancing the highest ideals of the legal profession.

As many chapters underscore, for the legal profession to endure as a profession, and all that term represents, lawyer professionalism must endure as well. The lawyer’s commitment to public service and the justice system, and in particular access to justice, will be paramount in an era when so many citizens are legally underserved. The formation of a lawyer’s professional identity will be indispensable if young lawyers are to develop the resilience and independent judgment they need to succeed in a change environment as professionals committed to serving clients, the cause of justice, and the public interest.

The Relevant Lawyer examines the qualities of the effective, principled lawyer with a largely outward and prospective look at the rapidly evolving legal services environment that all lawyers must navigate. A central tenet of this book is that successfully navigating the profession’s future requires close consideration today of those dynamic forces and trends that are shaping a very different law practice landscape. It is a collection of independent voices connected by an abiding concern about the future path of a great profession.

Because not all chapter authors share the same vision of the future, The Relevant Lawyer offers more than a single perspective or limited roadmap of the future; the objective is that this singular publication will promote dialogue and engagement on the future of the profession. Each chapter focuses on one issue, development, trend, or practice setting relevant to the larger discussion of change in the legal profession. The 20 chapters organized in five overarching categories: Transformation, Equity, Practice Settings, Regulation, and Development.

Foreword: William C. Hubbard, President, American Bar Association
Chapter 1: Saving Atticus Finch: The Lawyer and the Legal Services Revolution – Frederic S. Ury
Chapter 2: The Legal Industry of Tomorrow Arrived Yesterday: How Lawyers Must Respond – Stephen Gillers
Chapter 3: Alternative Legal Service Providers: Filling the Justice Gap – Paula Littlewood and Stephen Crossland
Chapter 4: Client Change: The Age of Consumer Self-Navigation – Jordan Furlong
Chapter 5: Women Lawyers: Big Firm Attrition—Small Firm Gains – Roberta D. Liebenberg
Chapter 6: Diversity and Inclusion as Filters for Envisioning the Future – Arin N. Reeves
Practice Settings
Chapter 7: The Future of Virtual Law Practice – Richard S. Granat and Stephanie Kimbro
Chapter 8: Large Law Firms: A Business Model, a Service Ethic – Carolyn B. Lamm and Hugh Verrier
Chapter 9: Indie Lawyering – Lucille A .Jewel
Chapter 10: The Soldier-Lawyer and the Challenge of Perceiving Right Action – Benjamin K. Grimes
Chapter 11: The Shift to Institutional Law Practice – Thomas D. Morgan
Chapter 12: Globalization and Regulation – Laurel S. Terry
Chapter 13: A Sea Change in England – Mark S. Smith
Chapter 14: The Australian Experiment:Out with the Old, in with the Bold – Steve Mark and Tahlia Gordon
Chapter 15: Canada: The Road to Reform – Simon Chester
Chapter 16: Legal Education: Learning What Lawyers Need – Thomas W. Lyons
Chapter 17: Mentoring: No App for That – Lori L. Keating and Amy Timmer
Chapter 18: Social Media: Here Today, Here Tomorrow – Daniel A. Schwartz
Chapter 19: Professionalism as Survival Strategy – Jayne R. Reardon
Chapter 20: Bar Associations: Tapping the Wisdom of the Young – Paul A. Haskins

Here are some excerpts from The Relevant Lawyer – Reimagining the Future of the Legal Profession (ABA 2015) to entice you to read on

William C. Hubbard, Foreword – There are no easy answers for the many difficult questions confronting the bar in this rapidly evolving legal marketplace. Our natural and understandable inclination is to preserve all that has served our profession so well for so long. . . . [But] we cannot ignore the evidence that the public expects us to deliver legal services in the most accessible, effective, and efficient way. We must acknowledge this expectation and work to shape the changes ahead, not wait for them to happen to us.

Jayne R. Reardon, Ch. 19, Professionalism as Survival Strategy – In the twenty-first century, lawyer professionalism emerges as more than some venerable notion of how lawyers behave at their best. It becomes the very path to preservation of our profession, informing what must be done to build and maintain a lawyer’s professional identity, reinforce the bar’s bedrock service ethic, and equip young lawyers with the resilience they surely need to survive and succeed in an altered law practice environment.

Laurel S. Terry, Ch. 12, Globalization and Regulation – Substantial change in the regulatory structure governing U.S. legal prac­tice appears inevitable, compelled by the continuing transformation of the practice environment itself. The specifics of that change are as yet unclear, but its predictable scope has profound implications for the ways in which lawyers work. This chapter will identify some of the forces already creat­ing pressure for regulatory changes across the United States . . . and highlight pressing issues that U.S. lawyer regulators must confront soon in response to a rapidly evolving legal industry.

Richard S. Granat and Stephanie Kimbro, Ch. 7, The Future of Virtual Law Practice – The continuing ascension of virtual law firms will leave a profound mark on those who deliver legal services and on segments of society that receive them or need them. The economies of legal software applications will enable lawyers to make a living offering legal services to persons now priced out of the legal services market. Internet-based technology will enable law firms—mostly solos and small firms that serve consumers and small businesses—to offer efficient and affordable solutions relevant to a latent market for legal services. . . . Technology will deliver legal help to the legally underserved, where the traditional legal services market has failed.

Arin S. Reeves, Ch. 6, Diversity and Inclusion as Filters for Envisioning the Future – In coming decades, inclusive thinking and acting will be intrinsic to the lawyer’s core competencies. Lawyers will not have to consciously commit to conducting themselves inclusively because the world will expect it of them, their own core values will demand it of them, and they will not suc­ceed, professionally or personally, without an inclusive approach to life.

Frederic S. Ury, Ch. 1, Saving Atticus Finch: The Lawyer and the Legal Services Revolution – The legal profession is not going out of business. There will always be a market for Atticus Finch, the smart, principled, loyal, brave, determined justice advocate. But Atticus Finch will have to change, too. He will have to engage technology to become more efficient and effective. . . . We as lawyers – as the profession of law – now have the opportunity of a lifetime to shape the emerging legal services delivery landscape in a way that better serves a vast unmet public need for access to justice, while preserving lawyers’ essential place in the justice system. Only by seizing that opportunity can we hope to remain an independent, relevant, and self-regulated profession in the twenty-first century.

Paul Haskins Chapter 20: Bar Associations: Tapping the Wisdom of the Young
On alternative legal service providers – “[A] watershed opportunity may await progressive lawyer organizations—including mandatory and voluntary bar associations—poised to broaden their base by becoming home to, or regulators of, new classes of non-lawyer legal service professionals that may well proliferate in coming years.”

[Haskins goes on to discuss developments such as Washington State’s limited license legal technician designation, online providers such as LegalZoom and RocketLawyer, and that the law society in Ontario, Canada, regulates paralegals as well as lawyers.] “In the end bar associations, including mandatory bars, alone may be in position to provide the knowledge set, the continuity and the experience to cast a single net over a diverse field of legal service providers and ensure needed practice standards and consumer protections are in place. That expanded role would be both appropriate and most timely, as bars’ traditional member base of lawyers declines.”

On attracting new lawyers “Mary Byers, CAE, a consultant and advisor to bar associations, believes associations must change old habits and lower barriers to entry, for more young lawyers to join. ‘Younger members are telling associations, “We like-face-to-face meetings, but we want more networking and less sitting in on sessions.” If I have a lot of debt, and you’re asking me to part with some of my income to be a member, you better give me a good reason …'”

“Notwithstanding young lawyers’ heavy technology habit, bar associations are positioned to fill a basic need to belong. Bar associations must ‘recognize that members hunger for an increased sense of community both on and off-line,’ said Minnesota State Bar Association President Richard H. Kyle, Jr. ‘There is no better place to provide that community than state and district bars.’ Richard H. Kyle, Jr., Tomorrow’s Bar Associations, BENCH AND BAR OF MINNESOTA (Nov. 11, 2014). [American Society of Association Executives] research found that potential association members are drawn as much by a desire to serve the common good as an interest in personal benefits, although personal benefits matter slightly more to the youngest professionals.”

On overcoming resistance to change “Today’s bar associations play a vital role in the legal landscape and in American society. There is an emerging consensus that their willingness to overcome resistance to change and to open the door to new voices, new ideas, and new directions will be key to bar associations’ effectiveness, and thus to preserving their prominent and invaluable place in American life.”

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