Changes in the Social Perception of a ''Successful Lawyer'' by LawCrossing


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Changes in the Social Perception of a ‘’Successful Lawyer’’

Almost imperceptibly, three terrible socio-economic waves have struck the legal profession and changed its nature
forever, even though a majority of lawyers and judges steadfastly refuse to recognize those changes. The first
was the industrial revolution, the next was the revolution in information technology, and the third is the deadliest
economic recession in the history of U.S. The delayed impact of the industrial revolution transformed the lawyer-
entrepreneur into an executive. The second wave of information technology turned the ‘man of learning’ into an
information broker. The third wave has made money the ‘only measure’ of professional success.

These socio-economic changes have radically                     A lawyer like Clarence Darrow would be laughed
transformed the social role of a lawyer. The hallowed           at today and pushed out of law firm boards – only
role of a lawyer as a business counselor has                    the rainmakers matter, billable hours matter, and
practically vanished as business leaders have become            those who bring in the most money are glorified as
more learned and knowledgeable. The symbols of                  successful. Who is more learned, or a better subject
professional success are no more those of the past.             expert or has better integrity is immaterial, the only
There is little public recognition of a lawyer as a person      thing that is material in measuring success as a lawyer
of consequence. The social status of a lawyer as a              today is money
‘learned person’ has vanished. Except for a handful
of fortunate professionals, a lawyer has no individual          It’s a pity that even today lawyers remain culturally
identification separate from his/her law firm affiliation.      conditioned to believe in the likes of Clarence Darrow
The only symbol of success that remains in control of           ruling the court and in idolizing fantastic models of
an individual lawyer is money.                                  success which are totally out of sync with the reality of
                                                                the 21st century. Perhaps there is no other profession
So, today, success is judged by income, and the worth           in the world which still loves to cling to its roots in the
of a lawyer is measured by his/her income. Titans of            guilds of medieval ages than that of lawyers. And that
learning are pushed to insignificant corners in law firms       creates misperceptions and takes a toll on individual
and billing partners glorified as rainmakers. Those in          careers. People fail to realize that an ‘independent’
charge of getting the money are the new heroes of law           practice or ‘solo’ practice is as much ‘interdependent’
firms, not those who get the work done and delivered.           as any other modern profession, and further fail to
                                                                realize that for every lawyer out there, the game
Oh yes, such an attitude has its obvious consequences.          has changed and the ‘lawyer’ idolized in law schools
It leads to failing law firms whose existence does not          belongs to the 18th century, and is better left there.
depend upon loyal learned people, but on rainmakers
who would leave as soon as they see signs of disaster.          Reference:
In fact they are ready to bring in disaster by leaving
without any concern for other lawyers hurt by their             Macklin Fleming, Lawyers, Money, and Success: The
selfish decisions. But why be selfless when the law firm        Consequences of Dollar Obsession (Westport, CT:
itself glorifies selfishness, and would not stand by you        Quorum Books, 1997)
in your hard times?


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