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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. IF the Right to Vote is indeed a Right, then it is a RIGHT. That is the same for ALL eligible and properly registered voters. And this is, being able to cast one's vote - until the minute before the polls close in one's assigned precinct. NOT days before by absentee ballot, and NOT 9 miles from one's house (where it might be a burden to get to in time). I personally wait until the last minute to get in line. Because you never know what happens. THAT is my right, and that is Mr. Valenti's. If it is truly so horrible to let him on school grounds (exactly how many children are harmed by those required to register, on school grounds, on election day - seriously!), then move the polling place to a different location. For ALL voters in that precinct. Problem solved.

  2. "associates are becoming more mercenary. The path to partnership has become longer and more difficult so they are chasing short-term gains like high compensation." GOOD FOR THEM! HELL THERE OUGHT TO BE A UNION!

  3. Let's be honest. A glut of lawyers out there, because law schools have overproduced them. Law schools dont care, and big law loves it. So the firms can afford to underpay them. Typical capitalist situation. Wages have grown slowly for entry level lawyers the past 25 years it seems. Just like the rest of our economy. Might as well become a welder. Oh and the big money is mostly reserved for those who can log huge hours and will cut corners to get things handled. More capitalist joy. So the answer coming from the experts is to "capitalize" more competition from nonlawyers, and robots. ie "expert systems." One even hears talk of "offshoring" some legal work. thus undercutting the workers even more. And they wonder why people have been pulling for Bernie and Trump. Hello fools, it's not just the "working class" it's the overly educated suffering too.

  4. And with a whimpering hissy fit the charade came to an end ... http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2016/07/27/all-charges-dropped-against-all-remaining-officers-in-freddie-gray-case/ WHISTLEBLOWERS are needed more than ever in a time such as this ... when politics trump justice and emotions trump reason. Blue Lives Matter.

  5. "pedigree"? I never knew that in order to become a successful or, for that matter, a talented attorney, one needs to have come from good stock. What should raise eyebrows even more than the starting associates' pay at this firm (and ones like it) is the belief systems they subscribe to re who is and isn't "fit" to practice law with them. Incredible the arrogance that exists throughout the practice of law in this country, especially at firms like this one.

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