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Business As Usual

February 29, 2012

“ ‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?’ ” (Mark 8:36).

Any number of disappointing articles have been written about the impact of the Great Recession on lawyers, especially those just beginning their careers. Most of these articles focus exclusively on the financial aspect of lawyering.

Putting aside for the moment that many other areas of the economy have been harder hit than the legal profession, it is understandable that lawyers fearing for their livelihoods would look for reassurance, particularly considering the debt many law students carry when they first graduate.

Large firms in New York, London, and elsewhere lost major corporate clients as financial markets imploded and the subprime mortgage crisis deepened. Commercial real estate projects came to an abrupt halt. With cash in short supply, even business litigation dried up. On the other hand, small and midsize firms withstood the blast reasonably well. Support staff and associates may have been reduced. Early retirements may have been accelerated. But personal injury litigation continued to be a cash cow. Bankruptcies increased, some larger in scope than ever before seen by US courts.

Like manufacturing, legal work has increasingly been outsourced over the past ten years. This trend produced a glut of attorneys even prior to the mortgage crisis.

Now what? The question reverberates, with no simple answers forthcoming. Chances are large firms will retain their business model, and resume their usual way of doing business once the dust settles. Law schools will continue to focus their energies on students ranked in the top ten percent. Their target will remain Wall Street.

For the rest of us – and the society of which we are a part – the crisis may be an opportunity in disguise. If finances are not our sole consideration, the possibilities presented increase exponentially. Nationally and internationally, there are untold agencies and non-profits in need of legal advice and direction.

Care about the environment? Clean air? Clean water? Prove it. See global hunger as an issue? Prove it. Concerned for disaster relief? Prove it. Worried about inner city youth? Prove it.  The list of worthy causes is endless.

Maybe your destiny is not to make a million dollars. Maybe your destiny is to change the world.

For once, do more than write a check. Step up to the plate. Give your time, your energy, your talent. Your bank account won’t enlarge much, but your heart will. The world (and, coincidentally, the legal profession) will be the better for it.

Or we can go back to business as usual, to the unmitigated greed that, at bottom, caused this recession in which we are mired. The choice is yours.



From → Christian, Faith, Law, Religion

One Comment
  1. danielcolbert permalink

    I made a similar observation to my wife a few weeks ago. Among my colleagues (recent law grads), there are few in traditional legal jobs. On the other hand, there are far more recent law grads volunteering and working in nontraditional fields than before the recession. I’ve found the opportunity to volunteer and work nontraditional jobs both rewarding and freeing. Not having to worry about billing hours allows me to concentrate on my goals rather than my hours.

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