The term “hate” can create strong reactions (whether used correctly or not).
This morning, I came across Victoria Pynchon’s It’s OK to Hate Lawyers article while scrolling through Zite and drinking my first cup of coffee. In that early morning fog, I initially placed this in the category of overreaching with the use of the word “hate.”
But, after the caffeine began to clear my head, I read the article closer. Despite my dislike of the headline term, Pynchon’s well-written piece has an element of truth and continues an important discussion. An argument exists that a section of our profession has long been driven by the lawyers’ interests, instead of the client. It is no surprise to anyone that lawyers tend to be adverse to change. Steering this ship in a different direction is a slow process. And, as long as clients are paying for the services under a “the way things have always been done” methodology, the incentive for many to alter behavior is not there.
That said, the time are a changin’. The profession’s client base has become more sophisticated, both on the individual and corporate in-house counsel level. That is why old-school law firm models are failing and we are seeing more and more emerging business models (for example, virtual law firms serving sophisticated clients).
While I cannot disagree with many of Pynchon’s points, we need to tweak the notion that the perceived “top of the profession” consists of those lawyers Pynchon criticizes. The majority of lawyers practice in solo or small firms around the country. They are engaging in leadership positions in bar associations and the community to help advance our profession and to protect the public. The same holds true for many BigLaw lawyers. Those stifling advancement of the cause should not be categorized as the top lawyers — it gives them too much credit.
The market for legal services will continue to shift as the consumers of such services force it to do so. It will change how firms are managed. Those lawyers who resist will risk irrelevancy and will lose influence.
It is also the job of lawyers to make sure the public does not have a reason to say “I hate lawyers because ________.” In the “don’t hate the player, hate the game” context, it is up to the player to make a difference.