Is the DOJ Poised to Take A Bite Out of Lawyer Self-Regulation?
The Patience of Job(s)

Just Who Do We Think We Are?

ThinkstockPhotos-92831723A key postulate of legal futurists is that the professional self-identity of lawyers as self-contained experts is holding us back from making the changes we need to survive in a dynamic, Internet-driven world.

Just what is our traditional professional self-identity?

I think this description from a 1994 law review article by sociologist Robert Granfield does a fair job of capturing its essence:

[Lawyers constitute an ethical community of autonomous experts who contribute to the maintenance of a rational social order.  This conventional view of lawyering assumes that professionals are independent specialists who stand above or apart from the competing social, economic and political bases of power in society.

Standing apart, we see ourselves as jacks (and now jills) of all things legal, even when all those things require different skills, temperaments, and training. Counselor. Problem solver. Champion. Defender. Disrupter. Protector. Pit bull one day, Lassie the next. J.D. in hand, we feel entitled, ready or not, to do it all, and to keep others from entering our domain.

To put it mildly, this is not a view that leads comfortably to collaboration with others. So why is that a problem? Perhaps it's as simple as this:

 "In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed." - Charles Darwin

Illustration:  Hablot Knight Browne for Charles Dickens’s Bleak House. Sir Leicester's lawyer,  Mr. Tulkinghorne, discovers Lady Leicester's darkest secret and threatens to reveal it to her husband.


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