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August 2013 CBA REPORT
president’s brief
“A
almost doubled, with the average debt
upon graduation following suit. Concur-
rently, “Big Law” is under stress — firm
sized has topped out and partnership
shares and entry salaries are treading
water at best. Clients, in turn, scour bills,
disallow certain fees, and increasingly
demand alternative, transaction-based
fee arrangements. Yet, as legal blogger
Adam Cohen has observed, “it is hard
to believe that the legal profession will
end in the sort of high-speed implosion
that subprime mortgages did.” The legal
profession is facing some fundamental
changes, but I believe that our profession
is less in crisis than it is in transition.
Efforts are underway to improve
the state of legal education, which is
under fire from a number of directions.
The ABA, for example, has two current
initiatives — the ABA Task Force on
the Future of Legal Education, which is
focusing its effort primarily upon eco-
nomic issues related to legal education,
licensing and the role of law schools in
improving the delivery of legal services;
and the Standards Review Committee of
the ABA Section of Legal Education and
Admissions to the Bar, which is tasked
with making certain that accreditation
standards are still serving their intended
purpose of ensuring that U.S. law schools
provide a sound program of legal educa-
tion that will promote high standards of
professional competence, responsibility
and conduct for members of the legal
profession.
Law schools across the nation are
also responding — among other things,
they are making their curricula more
“A
noble profession is facing its
defining moment. From law
schools to the prestigious
firms that represent the pinnacle of a
legal career, a crisis is unfolding. News
headlines tell part of the story — the
growing oversupply of new lawyers,
widespread career dissatisfaction, and
spectacular implosions of pre-eminent
law firms. Yet eager hordes of bright
young people continue to step over each
other as they seek jobs with high rates of
depression, life-consuming hours, and
little assurance of financial stability.”
So reads a teaser for the latest assess-
ment of the legal profession,
The Lawyer
Bubble: A Profession in Crisis
, by Stephen
J. Harper, a former litigator at Kirkland
& Ellis and adjunct professor at North-
western Law, who teaches what he calls
“the good, the bad and the ugly of what it
means to be a lawyer.”
Reviews of
The Lawyer Bubble
, while
mixed, are generally favorable. And
whether you agree or disagree with
Harper’s thesis — that “the business of
law focuses law school deans and practi-
tioners in big law firms on… maximizing
immediate profits for their institutions,”
which “has muddied the profession’s mis-
sion and… set it on a course to become
yet another object mission lesson in the
perils of short-term thinking” —
Lawyer
Bubble
is an interesting read. There does,
however, seem to be consensus that word
“bubble” is an overstatement.
Make no mistake, law schools are
unquestionably under siege — applica-
tions and first-year enrollment have
dropped significantly and jobs are scarce.
Meanwhile, average annual tuition has
By Jean Geoppinger McCoy
work-related, so graduates might be more
attractive to employers. Additionally,
there is talk of reducing the traditional
three-year law school model to two years
and efforts to improve the law firm re-
cruiting process. The growing problem of
law graduates, who are in the fifth year of
a near-depression-level job market, who
can’t to find work is not easily solved. I
would posit, however, that even if you
are not in a position to offer a 1, 2, 3L or
graduate part or full time employment,
there are things that we can do, locally,
to help.
Partner with and support our
outstanding local law schools. Con-
sider sharing your knowledge and
experience as an adjunct professor. Or,
as Mina Jones Jefferson, assistant dean
and director of the Center for Profes-
sional Development at the University
of Cincinnati College of Law, suggests,
afford a law student an experience.
Have an empty seat at the table your
firm purchased at a fundraiser? Call the
Center for Professional Development.
Mina or her staff will connect you with
an interested student who would relish a
personal networking opportunity. Have
a small project that requires an extra set
of hands? Call the Center for Professional
Development. Mina or her staff will
connect you with an enterprising student
who will pitch in, gain valuable experi-
ence and make meaningful connections
in the local legal community in the pro-
cess. The opportunities are endless!
Geoppinger McCoy is the 2013-2014 president of the
Cincinnati Bar Association.
The Lawyer Bubble:
A Crisis or Transition?
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