I received the following in my inbox today, which I read with curiosity. The ABA, whose grip on the legal profession and legal education has been challenged of late from criticisms ranging from the irrelevancy of law curriculum to lack of job prospects for grads, felt compelled to reach out to young lawyers and offer reassurance. Reassurance that the economy is showing signs of economic recovery, that there are brighter days ahead. Reassurance that law schools will no longer be able to fudge job placement data, and that the ABA’s call for a resolution is the key to this happening. Reassurance that the ABA is committed to the out of control costs of legal education and advocating for debt relief. All major problems which need addressed sooner rather than later.
But the statement reeks of self-interest. The ABA isn’t on the forefront of change; its responsive [slowly] to demands for change coming from outside. It’s responsive to the lawsuits, the merits of which I am not judging, filed by numbers of law students who cannot find work, and to demands for relevance in legal education. And it seems to me that the ABA is posturing itself as change agent. Which explains the following statement:
The ABA is the largest voluntary association in the world, which means no other organization can match our ability to help you gain knowledge, develop skills, build networks and be heard. We are your partners for a productive and rewarding career in the field of law.
In other words, lawyers and law students: You need us. But the reality is that beneath this release rings the sound of desperation. Desperation to retain its foothold on regulation of the legal profession. To be the gatekeeper for legal education. Yet, the world is changing. Legal services are changing. The old guard is changing. How? Well for one, technology is providing more opportunity for DIY legal services. Law firms continue to squeeze out associates. Law school applications continue to fall, though not rapidly enough in my view given the legal job market. And the criticisms are coming from within the profession and legal academia.
Is maintaining the old guard in the best interest of current and future lawyers? I am not sure. But the real question is can it be maintained? My guess is no. What I am sure of is that disingenuity and pro activity are not necessarily compatible. The latter embraces the changing face of legal practice; the former publicly spins the change which is threatening to entrenched interests in order to maintain a grip as long as possible.