Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

An Entrepreneurial Perspective on the Business of Being in Our Profession

Academic journal article Fordham Urban Law Journal

An Entrepreneurial Perspective on the Business of Being in Our Profession

Article excerpt

Introduction   I. The Entrepreneurial Lens  II. Julius Henry Cohen: The Entrepreneur in a Changing      Society III. Social Entrepreneurs of a Different Hue  IV. The Invisible Lawyers Concluding Thoughts 


Julius Henry Cohen's project is to take a reflective look back at the broad history of the law profession, searching for the fundamental organizing tenets. (1) From that historical perspective, he identifies the intrinsic values and traditions that have shaped the professional and ethical aspirations that define our practice as a highly respected profession populated by individuals of high character and intellect. (2) Significantly, Cohen found that an ethic of public service was essential to the authenticity of the practice of law. (3) At the heart of his critique is the sober recognition that far too many lawyers have fallen from ethical grace (4) and are practicing law for the selfish purpose of amassing personal financial wealth on the backs of their clients. (5) Moreover, the ease of entry into the profession has afforded woefully unprepared persons to claim the title of lawyer, thereby causing grievous harm to an unsuspecting public. (6) Ethical change would be critical to the profession's survival. (7)

Cohen's book is a clarion call to the organized Bar to clean up our professional house; (8) to set mandatory educational and moral standards to enter the profession; (9) and to diligently remove those whose actions and style of practice do not meet the lofty ideals that have historically guided the practice of law. (10) He sought to uncover fresh thinking and encouraged others to be creative in expounding upon the ethical values of the profession. (11) To this end, he highlighted the innovative approaches of various state bars and of the American Bar Association to construct canons of ethics and regulatory processes to police the profession and establish standards of ethical practice. (12) Moreover, he studied how ideas about traditional morality were continually evolving in terms of depth and insight and shaping the practice of law. (13)

In this Article I will examine Cohen's book from the framework of entrepreneurship. The discussion is premised on the idea that the book itself is an entrepreneurial effort. (14) More specifically, I see it as an exercise in social entrepreneurship that goes beyond the mere question of whether the practice of law is a business or a profession and entails the question of what type of society Cohen desired to construct by having quality lawyers as he described them. (15) Moreover, if the book could be read as an entrepreneurial social commentary on the practice, I find that Cohen has left out the social crisis that would shape the nation's future. (16) There is no mention of the race-based turmoil that was sweeping across the country at the turn of the century, (17) nor of the lawyers and legal cases that addressed the political and social oppression of persons of African descent. (18) Ultimately I find the underlying question of whether the law is a business or profession to be of little significance if it does not also address the question of what type of society we wish to live in and how lawyers and the law can play a crucial role in insuring that our truly fundamental values about freedom and democracy are central to how we practice law.


In reading Cohen's book, I could not help analyzing it from an entrepreneurial perspective, or what Professor Benjamin Means calls an "entrepreneurial lens." (19) To view the world from an entrepreneurial perspective is to understand that entrepreneurship is the study of how an individual perceives an opportunity in a marketplace, strategically conceives of a unique method to take advantage of the opportunity, gathers the necessary resources, and successfully actualizes the plan in the marketplace. (20) To perceive, or to have perception, is to recognize a problem that needs a solution. …

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