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February 28, 2024 Modern Law Library

NY law prof is calling on 'Lawyer Nation' to reform

By Lee Rawles

Ray Brescia, a law professor at Albany Law School in New York, has taken a hard look at the country's legal system in his new book, Lawyer Nation: The Past, Present, and Future of the American Legal Profession

In this episode of The Modern Law Library podcast, Brescia tells the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles about the efforts in the late 19th and early 20th century to exclude people from the legal profession who were not part of the dominant social class and how access-to-justice issues persist today as a result of some of those measures.

The early American Bar Association is one of the organizations that he names as a participant in the exclusionary efforts through its law school accreditation program, and he and Rawles discuss the ABA’s current efforts to increase diversity, equity and inclusion.

As someone who has worked in academia, the nonprofit world, legal aid organizations and as a clerk at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, he says he’s come across many people who care deeply and want the justice system to function better. But without fundamental changes to the ways that legal services are delivered, he does not think that the access-to-justice issues can be solved.

A large part of Brescia’s concern that he expresses in Lawyer Nation is for legal professionals themselves. Brescia says the mental illness and substance-use levels within the profession demonstrate that greater care has to be shown for lawyers’ well-being and work-life balance. He shares his advice for making the profession more sustainable for the incoming generation. He also discusses how law schools and legal education can change.

In This Podcast

Ray Brescia

Ray Brescia is the Hon. Harold R. Tyler professor in law and technology at Albany Law School in New York. Before coming to Albany Law School, he was the associate director of the Urban Justice Center in New York. He also was an adjunct professor at New York Law School from 1997 to 2006. Before his work at the Urban Justice Center, he was a staff attorney at New Haven Legal Assistance and the Legal Aid Society of New York. Brescia also was law clerk to Senior U.S. District Judge Constance Baker Motley of the Southern District of New York. He is the author or editor of The Future of Change: How Technology Shapes Social Revolutions, Crisis Lawyering: Effective Legal Advocacy in Emergency Situations, How Cities Will Save the World: Urban Innovation in the Face of Population Flows, Climate Change and Economic Inequality and Lawyer Nation: The Past, Present, and Future of the American Legal Profession.