Restoring the allure of being a lawyer

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Ralph Baxter (@ralphbaxter), Chair of the Legal Executive Institute at Thomson Reuters, talked last week about the lost allure of becoming lawyer and what it would take to get that allure back.

When I was a boy, I dreamed of being a lawyer. I wanted to be Perry Mason—cross examining witnesses until they admitted they were guilty and my innocent clients were exonerated. My dream came true; I might not have been Perry Mason, but I had a long and rewarding career as a lawyer advising and defending clients.

So did I dream of being Perry Mason and I actually got to do it (in my mind). Not on the criminal side, but in doing civil trial work in rural Wisconsin.

I agree with Baxter that not nearly as many people dream of being a lawyer, as well as his reasoning for the lost allure. The economics are not there – high tuition and low pay. Large law, something I never saw appealing, is no longer appealing to lawyers employed there – long hours, tedious work. Windows for career opportunities are not readily apparent.

I am not sure I agree with Baxter on how we restore the allure. He sees the answer in regulatory reform, legal education reform, reforming the large law firm associate model, and increased public funding for legal services to the lower income.

Those changes, though having merit, could take an awful long time. They also require wading through a lot of bureaucracy.

I wonder if we can restore a little of the allure by empowering underemployed and uninspired lawyers.

I spent last weekend at Michigan State University College of Law with law students and lawyers. We worked on social media, with a full day dedicated to blogging.

By the time we were done the students and lawyers saw how they could focus on niche areas of the law to serve the people and small businesses they wanted to serve. They saw how they could do the the type of legal work they wanted to do.

The lawyers and students were not looking to make millions. They wanted to enjoy their work as a lawyer, help people, and earn enough to be part of middle-income America.

These lawyers and law students found being a lawyer alluring – or at least saw how it could be alluring.

Could blogging and social media make being a lawyer alluring again? Probably not by themselves, but look at what they can do.

  • Enable a lawyer to do the work they’d like to do – and get enough work to make a decent living.
  • Empowers a lawyer to earn a reputation as a trusted and reliable authority in a niche area, maybe even Troy, Michigan family law.
  • Enable a lawyer to build relationships in a real and meaningful way.
  • Allow a lawyer to be proud of getting work the “old-fashioned way” via word of mouth and relationships. Advertising such as websites, SEO, adwords, and marketers writing ghost blog content have done nothing to eradicate the shame brought to the profession by less-than-classy advertising.
  • Lawyers will get positive feedback from clients, prospective clients, judges, the Internet community of reporters and bloggers, association leaders, other lawyers and their community.
  • Lawyers helping consumers and business people by sharing information, insight and commentary on the law. Knowing they are making a difference is big deal to a lot of lawyers.
  • Improve the image of our profession by having more lawyers giving of themselves and making the law more accessible.

A lot of pride can be brought to our profession and to lawyers through the effective use of blogging and social media. We can empower underemployed and uninspired lawyers now.

They’re no panacea, but blogging and social media do give us a shot at restoring a little of that allure of being a lawyer.

By the way, my self-created first blog included a picture of Perry Mason with a caption reading “Mmm… maybe I should have a blog.”

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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