Letting Go of Old Ideas

Two recently published books make the claim that the legal profession has changed (Steven Harper’s The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis) or is changing (Richard Susskind’s Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future). The books are interesting because they discuss the types of changes that are broad, sweeping, and dramatic. In suitable lawyer fashion, both books are unfailingly analytical. They both also argue that the old order is collapsing. The Lawyer Bubble is backward looking and laments the legacy we have squandered, while Tomorrow’s Lawyers is future oriented and offers fairly specific prescriptive advice, particularly to those lawyers entering the legal field at a time when the number of traditional (what I call “artisan”) legal jobs is shrinking. Many of us working in the legal industry are interested in this topic because we are facing business conditions with no familiar historical analogue. From my own vantage point as a law school professor, things look pretty bleak. As a result of the precipitous, multiyear decline in applicant rates and historical trends in admission and matriculation rates, the number of law students who enrolled as 1Ls in the fall of 2013 fell below 40,000 — alow-water mark not seen since the mid-1970s.