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Legal Daily News Feature

What Will the Next Century Bring for the Legal Profession? By Rebecca E. Neely Recently, the University of Montana School of Law celebrated its centennial. In conjunction with this important milestone, the school hosted a panel discussion examining the role of the lawyer over the next one hundred years.

09/17/11 Many distinguished legal professionals made up the panel, including Bill Robinson, the American Bar Association president, Bob Carlson, Montana’s ABA delegate, Montana Supreme Court Justice Patricia Cotter, as well as Robert Bennett, an attorney based in Washington D.C., state Rep. Michele Reinhart, D-Missoula, and third-year law student, Martin Burke, UM regents professor and former law school dean, and Erica Grinde, a 2008 UM law school graduate, who is currently practicing in Missoula. This panel, a multidisciplinary, robust group of both expert and newcomer legal professionals gave the group the depth, breadth, and varied points of view necessary to thoroughly and thoughtfully address the broad range of issues facing the legal profession in the next century. The panel drew on the principles put forth by John Adams, one of the forefathers of the legal profession, ‘’to ensure all individual rights are protected’’ as a compass for a profession facing a host of issues on all fronts, including attorneys’ fees, the funding of court systems, the growing number of litigants who choose to represent themselves, as well as the lack of civic knowledge and growing lack of civility, an issue the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) has examined closely as of late. Also, not only does the large debt that students incur to obtain a legal education lead many to take a job at a large firm, versus a public interest job, where legal professionals are so desperately needed, it is downright prohibitive for many others. Additionally, other factors, including the media, technology, outsourcing and an increasingly global marketplace, play a large role in shaping

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the legal profession - in both good ways and bad, according to the September 9th missoulian.com article, ‘’UM School of Law centennial discussion looks into next century of legal system’’. The panel felt strongly that legal professionals’ involvement in the community is critical, as it has, historically, served to shape the country, as well as communities. Indeed, the panel feels lawyers are responsible for giving back; for sharing their expertise. Montana’s ABA delegate Bob Carlson was quoted as saying: ‘’Don’t let the legal profession be captured by business principles, but rather, by moral principles.’’ Also, the public’s ignorance regarding the legal profession in general was cited as a problem. The panel felt through both community involvement and philanthropic efforts by the profession, the public might become more educated about the nation’s legal systems. According to Robert Bennett, Washington, D.C. based attorney, one of the biggest ‘’threats to the legal system is access and affordability.’’ Because many people can’t afford to hire an attorney, there are many more pro se litigants. This creates a challenge for the judicial system, according to Montana Supreme Court Justice Patricia Cotter, per the article. What the coming decades will bring, of course, remains to be seen. Again, guiding a profession fraught with so many issues, and that plays a role in, and is affected by, nearly every facet of society will indeed be a challenge; one that the panel feels will best be met by returning to the roots of the profession, and embracing the foundations established so long ago.

www.lawcrossing.com


What Will the Next Century Bring for the Legal Profession?  

Recently, the University of Montana School of Law celebrated its centennial. In conjunction with this important milestone, the school hosted...

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