|The Colorado Lawyer|
Vol. 28, No. 7 [Page 27]
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CBA President's Message to Members
The Issues That Face Us
by Bart Mendenhall
There are those who think we should be a trade association only. Others find that attitude tacky and think we should immerse ourselves in lofty professional thoughts to the exclusion of all else. Most of us, I suspect, fall somewhere in between. It is hard to elevate your thoughts when you are worried about making the next payroll. On the other hand, if we did not have some interest in the law as a profession, most of us could have found an easier way to make a living. In the near future, we must deal with several issues.
Pro Bono and Community Service
We have already seen problems with the delivery of legal services to people of limited means. This has been apparent in the debate over mandatory pro bono, which I see as a symptom of the need for delivery of legal services to the poor. We have had some successes, as seen in the passage by the Colorado legislature of funding for legal services for domestic violence victims. Much remains to be done.
I do not personally agree with mandatory pro bono or pro bono reporting. I do believe in the importance and necessity for each and every one of us to provide service, not only by pro bono, but in service to our communities. To a certain extent, providing pro bono and community service is selfish. It lets us all feel a little more like Atticus Finch, and thus fulfill ourselves in our professional and personal lives. In looking at mandatory pro bono, we may be confusing the need for legal services with the moral, ethical, and personal act of pro bono service.
With the issue of multidisciplinary practice, we face the future of our profession. If you think that multi-disciplinary practice only affects firms that are working on mergers, acquisitions and the like, think about the grocery chain in Great Britain that is now selling brand name legal services. Will our clients be buying Wal-Mart wills? We cannot have a knee-jerk, negative reaction to the issue. We have seen the changes in the medical profession. They have been able to do little to stop those changes in their practices. We must deal with the changes facing us and accommodate them without losing the integrity of the profession. (See the ABA Delegate's Report, p. 49, which discusses this issue.)
Image of Lawyers and Professionalism
Two other big issues continue to be the image of lawyers and professionalism. These issues, it seems to me, are closely connected, if not one and the same. I do not like the term "image." What we are really talking about is our reputation, individually and collectively. We think of our image as how we want to be perceived. Our reputation is how others see us, as a result of our actions or lack thereof. Our reputation is what counts. We know that most of the members of the CBA do things that are commendable both professionally and personally. We cannot do much to stop the few who care little about the reputation of the rest of us, but we can make sure that the rest of us do not condone these actions and that we overshadow them with our own professionalism and community spirit. The CBA must encourage the reputable among us. But it must also help us to improve our practices, so that we all have time available to take part in our communities and families.
Technology is also changing the face of the practice of law. It allows the solo or small firm to have access to the same resources as the larger firm. The CBA wants to do everything it can to help members use the technology present and future. Please give us any ideas or wants you have in this area.
The coming years will see interesting times for our profession. There will be challenges, but, with the challenges, will come opportunities. We do not seem to be able to predict the future well. When I graduated from law school (just a few short years ago), we were told that we would all be members of large firms and specialized. Today, from 60 to 70 percent of the CBA members are small-firm or solo practitioners. If nothing else, we must be adaptable.
Finally, we all need to lighten up. None of us is as important as we think we ought to be, and if you do not believe this, someone will come along to prove it shortly. Take advantage of the new technology and changes in the practice of law to make more time for your family and your community. Our reputations will improve and we will all be better for it.
I seek your thoughts and suggestions. Please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact me through the CBA: (303) 860-1115 or (800) 332-6736.
© 1999 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved. Material from The Colorado Lawyer provided via this World Wide Web server is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and may not be reproduced in any way or medium without permission. This material also is subject to the disclaimers at http://www.cobar.org/tcl/disclaimer.cfm?year=1999.