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Hickey: The Present of the Profession

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IBA-Hickey-ChristineOne headline read, Lawsuits With a Side of Fries. Another announced a prediction: The Inevitable Future of the Legal Profession. No greasy burgers or lukewarm tacos pass through this drive-up window. Instead, an old Kenny Rogers Roasters building in Connecticut is home to a law firm branching out into the world of drive-thru convenience. Yes, a drive-thru window staffed by a paralegal to facilitate client communications and document signatures for those on the go. The story was both disturbing and fascinating at the same time.

While drive-thru law firms may be new, predictions about the profession are not. For years, people have been trying to capture what the future holds for the legal profession. Research has been conducted, books and articles have been written. Lawyers have been told that we were on the brink of fundamental change and this year we are warned that all forms of legal practice are on the cusp of a transition. There is no denying that change is inevitable, but change isn’t all bad.

This past month I had the pleasure of listening to a law professor share his vision of the changing tide for law firms based on market trends and empirical analysis of the legal profession. His presentation focused on project management and was eye-opening. I left like the others in the room, pondering all of the possibilities and realities the next decade will bring. Just last week, our newest Supreme Court Justice quoted John Mellencamp as he took his seat on the bench for the first time, “If you’re not part of the future, then get out of the way.” There is no doubt that being a visionary and forward-thinking is the better practice. Indeed, we all must embrace change and challenge that comes with it.

Sometimes, however, it’s okay just to live in the moment.

Over four hundred new lawyers were sworn in on October 15th at the Indiana Convention Center. The ceremony began with each one of them walking to a microphone in front of our Supreme Court Justices and distinguished judges before whom they may one day appear. Some were nervous, some spoke too soft, some too loud. All wore excitement and pride for the day. As we listened to hundreds of names, each personal introduction was as important as the one before and after. Each was an individual who had achieved a milestone in their life and we were there to share in that celebration.

The group as a whole was diverse and impressive, but really no different from so many others that have come before. Our past, the rich history of the profession and the honor of the oath, is what binds us all. Our future is in each new lawyer that raised a hand at that ceremony and swore to maintain respect for the courts, the confidence of clients, and truth, all with the same promise and excitement that you and I shared on that important day. These new lawyers are the best evidence of a profession that is as strong today as it was in the day of Atticus Finch. To each of them, a warm welcome and congratulations.

Interestingly, a report created by young lawyers in the year 2000 attempted to predict the state of the legal profession in the year 2020. The final chapter begins, “It is impossible to say to those early in their legal careers ‘pursue this field, and your practice will thrive.’ There are too many ways in which society can change, and too many unpredictable events in one’s life, to be certain of the best course to set.” That remains the case today and will always hold true. Thriving as a lawyer comes from hard work, good moral character, and so many other things we learn along the path of our careers. The report also shares a quote which has been attributed to everyone from Mark Twain to a Danish physicist to Yogi Berra, “I never make predictions, especially about the future.” I say, enjoy the present of the profession. It truly is a gift.•

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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