Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Law School and Professional Realities

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

Law School and Professional Realities

Article excerpt

The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education was founded for many reasons. But as the title suggests, one of them was to assist Hispanics succeed in higher education both as students and as professionals.

I have been writing columns to those ends from the very foundation of this publication. I have urged young and not so young Hispanics to pursue higher education purposely and steadfastly.

To do so in an intelligent fashion, I suggested Hispanics become aware of new developing professions as well as explore age-honored professions.

Every December I have written about "The Law" as they are wont to say in law school. It is an ancient profession, one of the very first devised by humans. Although distorted at times and in different ways, one of the fundamental reasons for its creation was to help resolve problems fairly and justly, to bring order out of chaos.

Did it always succeed? No. The law has been so bent out of shape at times that the original idealism which first gave it vitality was shunted aside and distorted for generations.

Lawyers have been scorned from the very beginning. That was unfair. They should not be criticized for representing their client - be it an individual or a cause. I know that at other times lawyers have been corrupt and the instigators of nonjudicial behavior and actual criminality. But I am fully in the camp that believes the world has and continues to progress thanks in part to the dedicated work of good lawyers. So 1 have long encouraged Hispanics to consider entering that profession.

Year after year, I have written to explain and clarify' the complex worlds of pre-law studies, law school and the many opportunities and pitfalls which existed for those who might explore law as a profession.

Explaining as fully as I could the good and the bad, I urged Hispanics to consider the legal profession. I was positive, encouraging and supportive. But the legal profession I admired hut at times also criticized has changed and dramatically for the worse. This column will apprise readers of those new realities.

A new world: neither brave nor ennobling

For over 20 years qualified observers have warned of dangerous trends. I cite one observer in particular. Former Dean of the Yale Law School Anthony Kronman wrote The Lost Lawyer in 1993. His disappointment with the profession he loved and dedicated his Ufe to making better was palpable. Enormous changes in and outside corporations, large law firms and in law schools had, he noted, eroded the "lawyerstatesman ideal" he championed.

Large firms were growing exponentially and had become too specialized. Many partners lost their loyalty' to the firm and clients. Greed, always a human condition, led some partners to always be on the market constantly seeking a better paying position. Kronman feared these trends would weaken "the culture of law firms and turn the law business into a greedy enterprise, with Utde nobility in it."

It was a clear call that mostly fell on deaf ears at law schools and in the profession.

Fast forward

Today the situation is worse and the future seems dismal to many observers. Any student considering law and the profession should get aU the gruesome and good facts before making that career choice.

Where to turn? I recommend Professor Steven Harper s The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crises. A practicing lawyer for years, Harper retired, turned to academia, and has spent the last few years teaching, researching and writing. And write he does. His lean, lucid, fact-filled prose identifies problems and suggests solutions.

In this single book Harper, with laser scalpel accuracy, has done a superior job addressing many of abuses plaguing the profession. One vibrant strand is that avarice and short-term thinking of law1 school deans and equity partners has severely damaged a profession that at one time was considered noble.

Harper posits that as big firm profits increased, the law partners sought and received greater financial rewards. …

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