Breathing New Life Into Professionalism in the Practice of Law

Published for Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute on April 21, 2015

Something important happened at the Harvard Law School on April 10. More than 100 leaders from across the spectrum of legal service came together to consider how to breathe new life into professionalism in the practice of law. It was an inspiring event.

The conference was organized by the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession. It was based on the seminal essay, Lawyers as Professionals and Citizens (the “Essay”), written by Ben Heineman, Bill Lee, and David Wilkins, each a renowned leader of an important segment of the profession.

I commend the Essay to everyone who is concerned about the future of legal service. It shines a light on issues that go to the core of the role of lawyers in our world, and which have received too little attention in our discourse.

The Essay presents a thoughtful, realistic, and pragmatic examination of contemporary professionalism. It observes that the current dynamics in the legal marketplace exacerbate vulnerabilities of professionalism in law:

There is widespread agreement that the legal profession is in a period of stress and transition; its economic models are under duress; the concepts of its professional uniqueness are narrow and outdated; and, as a result, it ethical imperatives are weakened and their sources ill-defined.

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