Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2008

Abstract

The practice of law is changing. Lawyers who act solely as advocates and zealous representatives of clients in legal matters still represent the core of what lawyers do and of how many lawyers see their work, but other trends are filtering into "on the ground" practice. Increasing numbers of lawyers are mediating, consulting on traditionally non-legal issues, and approaching clients' needs "holistically" by associating with and integrating other professional services. These trends cut across virtually all segments of the profession, from prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers, to lawyers whose practices involve, among other things, public interest work, personal injury, family law, and business law. All indications — sociological, legal, and economic — suggest that these transformations of what lawyers do will continue.

The purpose of this Article is to offer a bird's eye view of an evolving profession, a kind of "Practice 2000" examination of where the profession has been and where it appears to be going. The goal is not to examine in depth individual movements and practices and the specific ethics issues implicated by each-as noted below, scholars and practitioners have done this already in many instances — but rather to survey the terrain and note linkages and connections among seemingly discrete practices performed in widely disparate practice areas. In this regard, a key thesis of this Article is that these trends interlock and represent shifts in what it means to be a lawyer.

The Article will approach this topic at a number of levels. It will first address the traditional notions of practice undergirding the Model Rules of Professional Conduct and, more generally, how lawyers traditionally conceived what they do. The Article will next summarize trends that demonstrate how increasing numbers of lawyers are moving away from this paradigm. Third, while the existing regulatory framework under which lawyers practice largely retains traditional norms, the seeds for reconceptualizing the practice of law have been planted in amendments to and interpretations of the Model Rules. Finally, the Article will explore the degree to which regulatory changes are necessary to reflect and facilitate these developments.

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