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Vol. 39, No. 4

New book to address future of profession, future of bar associations

The book The Relevant Lawyer – Reimagining the Future of the Legal Profession, produced by the ABA Standing Committee on Professionalism (Center for Professional Responsibility) and to be published on May 1, 2015, by ABA Publishing, will likely be of interest to many who are following the discussion of possible futures for the legal profession.

One chapter might be of particular note to the Bar Leader audience: “Bar Associations: Tapping the Wisdom of the Young,” by Paul A. Haskins, senior counsel, Center for Professional Responsibility, lead counsel, Standing Committee on Professionalism, and editor, The Professional Lawyer and Journal of the Professional Lawyer.

Drawing from a veritable who’s who of bar leaders, experts, and past speakers at the ABA Bar Leadership Institute and meetings of national bar-related organizations, Haskins considers why bar associations are still relevant—and what he believes they must do to remain so. Below are a few excerpts; the book will be available for preorder at Shop ABA in late March.

On alternative legal service providers

“[A] watershed opportunity may await progressive lawyer organizations—including mandatory and voluntary bar associations—poised to broaden their base by becoming home to, or regulators of, new classes of non-lawyer legal service professionals that may well proliferate in coming years.”

[Haskins goes on to discuss developments such as Washington State’s limited license legal technician designation, online providers such as LegalZoom and RocketLawyer, and that the law society in Ontario, Canada, regulates paralegals as well as lawyers.]

“In the end bar associations, including mandatory bars, alone may be in position to provide the knowledge set, the continuity and the experience to cast a single net over a diverse field of legal service providers and ensure needed practice standards and consumer protections are in place. That expanded role would be both appropriate and most timely, as bars’ traditional member base of lawyers declines.”

On attracting new lawyers

“Mary Byers, CAE, a consultant and advisor to bar associations, believes associations must change old habits and lower barriers to entry, for more young lawyers to join. ‘Younger members are telling associations, “We like-face-to-face meetings, but we want more networking and less sitting in on sessions.” If I have a lot of debt, and you’re asking me to part with some of my income to be a member, you better give me a good reason ...'"

[Byers’ quote continues; then Haskins resumes.]

“Notwithstanding young lawyers’ heavy technology habit, bar associations are positioned to fill a basic need to belong. Bar associations must ‘recognize that members hunger for an increased sense of community both on and off-line,’ said Minnesota State Bar Association President Richard H. Kyle, Jr. ‘There is no better place to provide that community than state and district bars.’ Richard H. Kyle, Jr., Tomorrow’s Bar Associations, BENCH AND BAR OF MINNESOTA (Nov. 11, 2014). [American Society of Association Executives] research found that potential association members are drawn as much by a desire to serve the common good as an interest in personal benefits, although personal benefits matter slightly more to the youngest professionals.”

On overcoming resistance to change

“Today’s bar associations play a vital role in the legal landscape and in American society. There is an emerging consensus that their willingness to overcome resistance to change and to open the door to new voices, new ideas, and new directions will be key to bar associations’ effectiveness, and thus to preserving their prominent and invaluable place in American life.”

The chapter “Bar Associations: Tapping the Wisdom of the Young,” by Paul A. Haskins, will appear in the forthcoming book The Relevant Lawyer – Reimagining the Future of the Legal Profession. ©2015 Published by the American Bar Association. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.