Eyeing Up the Changing Legal Profession
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because the face of law is changing, and these are ways to evolve along with it.
Pity the lawyers. No, seriously — pity the lawyers. And the rest of us, too. Perhaps you already know that the Big Law market is lousier than ever, thanks to continuing fallout from the recession. Behemoth firms have foundered, while others have cut back on hires or resorted to layoffs. But the real crisis looms more quietly. There may still be a lawyer glut at the white-shoe law firms, but there’s a shortage almost everywhere else, from government agencies to legal-aid clinics to state courthouses. It’s a mismatch that endangers the rule of law, and cries out for a bold solution.
With droughts in California, water conflicts in Texas and the continued water wars in the South, it is no secret that water is becoming a more precious commodity. And as the value of water increases, a legal career path is rising in demand. Enter stage right: water rights attorneys. “There’s a huge call for people that understand the current allocation of water and how that is done by laws, and institutions who are going to work hand in hand with water planners in order to create a more agile, adaptive system than the one we have right now,” says a water law professor. As the flood waters rise, maybe we should make sure Noah invites two lawyers on his ark — looks like we’ll need them.
Legal education is experiencing its biggest shake-up in decades. Applications to law school are down about 45 percent since 2009, and millennials — more than any previous generation — are rejecting law school. This “crisis” has caused much soul-searching in the legal academy, but the problems are clear: We are using the same old approach to teaching students that schools used over 100 years ago, tuition is higher than ever, and traditional legal jobs are scarce. So how can we fix this? A seasoned law professor weighs in.