As the legal profession goes through significant changes, bar associations need to help their members more than ever to understand and adapt to the changes, according to a past president of the Washington State Bar Association.
“If we don’t get our rank and file moving now, they’re going to miss a huge shift, and it’s going to jeopardize the profession,” said Patrick A. Palace, moderating a panel on the future of the legal profession and bar associations’ role, at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the National Conference of Bar Presidents.
“Despite all our work in the past, we need to redouble our efforts, to get the information that they need to our members, in the way they need it,” Palace said.
He cited studies showing that lawyers spend a decreasing amount of time practicing law, and more time trying to understand technology and manage their practice. According to one Clio study, the numbers for solo lawyers are particularly dramatic: In a typical eight-hour day, they get paid for about 28 percent of their time, Palace said; the amount of paid time rises to 55 percent for lawyers in large firms.
In addition to working fewer billable hours, lawyers are making less per hour than they were 10 years ago, when inflation is factored in, Palace added. “The average billable rate for lawyers nationally is $232,” he noted. “That rate has not significantly increased over the last 10 years. When you compare it to the Consumer Price Index, we as a profession have lost ground.”
How can bar associations help their members face such daunting challenges? Palace and the panelists consistently returned to the idea of technology as one important key.