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After last week’s flurry of press on ABA House of Delegates votes, I saw a theme emerge. The votes were on everything from the use of technology, to non-lawyer ownership, to law school accreditation standards. The ABA is in a unique position to lead the legal profession, but watching the outcomes of the various votes, and actually looking at which issues were put forward for votes, shows the ABA doing anything but leading.
The most positive notes I saw on the votes were ones about raising the standards for lawyers using technology. The thrust of this ballot was that lawyers should actually use technology. Although this is a good sentiment, it’s about 15 years too late.
The least positive articles focused on the ABAs lack of action involving the law school crises. Somewhere in the middle, you could put the vote on non-lawyer equity ownership of firms. The actual ballot was supposed to be an affirmation of the prohibition on non-lawyer ownership. Being controversial, no vote was taken.
In past posts I have commented on the unique position of the organized bar to lead the profession in embracing change. The need for change seems universal. Everyone with an internet connection would likely agree that things have changed dramatically around the profession and that change within the profession is necessary. Of course arguments will ensue on what changes need to be made, which is a normal and healthy dialog.
However, the ABA appears to be paralyzed and able to respond to change in only the most tepid fashion.
My View: It’s time to lead. If you want your profession to survive this storm in reasonable shape, now is the time to take on the hard issues. Waiting 15 years to address today’s challenges is a recipe for failure. The Bar is loaded with smart, creative people. I suggest the ABA find a way to leverage that force and lead the profession in to this already raging storm.