The Trouble with Lawyers: Looking Inward at the Legal Profession

Published for Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute on May 27, 2015

Everyone interested in improving the profession of law should read Deborah Rhode’s latest book, The Trouble with Lawyers (Oxford Press, June 2015).

Ms. Rhode is an eminent professor at the Stanford Law School and a prolific writer and speaker. She has been a scholar and empirical student of the way law is practiced and regulated for nearly four decades. Her command of these subjects shows on every page of her new book.

The book begins by observing: “These are not the best of times for lawyers.” Of course, there is much that appears to be quite good for lawyers today: the aggregate demand for legal service in the world is at an all-time high, and the largest law firms are very profitable. Rhode’s focus goes deeper—going to the experience of the people who practice law and those who depend on it. As she says on the opening page, all of the challenges facing the legal profession “have a human face.”

Rhode examines five interrelated dimensions of contemporary law:

  1. The Conditions of Practice
  2. Access to Justice
  3. Diversity in the Profession
  4. Regulation of the Profession
  5. Legal Education

Effectively using data, research and anecdotes, she sets out the challenges in each, and suggest strategies to deal with them.

While it does not pull any punches, the book maintains a balanced tone and perspective throughout. Importantly, it does not bash lawyers, law firms or any of the other participants. To the contrary, Rhode expresses confidence in lawyers’ ability to make things better, and throughout the book calls on them to do so.

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