[Polar bear on iceberg*]
On Friday, 24 July 2020, I participated in the virtual 7th Annual Access to Justice Conference organized by the Concord Law School in Los Angeles. It was an eye-opening experience for me in terms of the observing the extent of change in the legal services profession over 35 years. To clarify, I attended the University of Oregon School of Law in 1985, studying one year and finishing in good standing. I chose not to continue my studies as I did not see my future in any of the traditional specializations provided by the University but later became a legal translator, thus applying that knowledge. Notwithstanding my decision, I have been always attracted by the law and its goals. As I listened to the presentations and heard the practicing attorneys, I understood that today I would happily become a lawyer.
The first major eye-opener was the variety of business options available to new and experienced attorneys. Just as freelancing and cooperatives were underground in the general business world back then, it was especially true for law. Law students assumed that the way to success was to work incredible hours at low pay for many years at an established firm so that one day they could become a partner and own a Porsche. If those conditions or results were not personally relevant, the person had no future in the profession. Those rebels who wished to strive for social justice were smiled upon and had their illusions quickly corrected. At this conference, established attorneys talked about incubators, cooperatives, freelancing and small independent firms as viable professional options. These options probably existed then but they not only have broken the surface but have now made a mark on it.
Another major change in approach I noticed was the destruction of the barrier between law and business management. When I studied law, there may have been one course on managing a legal business and its components. In other words, fresh lawyers were completely ignorant of the most basic tasks of billing, customer relations and business planning. It is no wonder the vast majority did not consider going out on their own. The conference showed that in today’s legal world, knowledge of billing options and price scaling are no less important than tort law for success. On the marketing side, the discussions of understanding customer needs and wants would be equally at home at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (or the Leicester University Business school, where I got my MBA). Today’s lawyers are much better prepared for real life.
The greatest pleasure I received from the conference was in regards to the enthusiasm, not idealism, of both more and less experienced attorneys to attain justice. The keynote speaker, Jack Newton, used the allusion of an iceberg to describe the mass of people without access to legal services and its significance for social justice and professional success. In other words, he emphasized that it was for the mutual good of both clients and attorneys to make law available to the large mass, more than 60% of the public, that cannot afford legal services and are ignored by traditional law services. In the presentations that followed, speakers detailed how to attain this dual benefit, public and personal, and help the people really in need. It is possible to make protecting people’s rights a full-time profession.
As I turned off my computer, I could not but help feel a bit of pain for not having taken that route although I know it was the right decision at the time. For some, the motivation to become a lawyer - to work hard to complete law school, pass the bar and learn the ropes – is the passion for justice. It is clear today that that passion is no longer mere idealism but an attainable dream. With all the current economic problems and social problems, attorneys can help create a better society in the present and future.
*Always caption your pictures to allow blind people to full access posts. Picture: Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/cocoparisienne-127419/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2199534">Anja🤗#helpinghands #solidarity#stays healthy🙏</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=2199534">Pixabay</a>