STATE BAR PRESIDENT STEPHEN P. YOUNGER ANNOUNCES
CREATION OF TASK FORCE ON THE FUTURE OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION
Panel of Legal Experts Will Make Recommendations
to Create a Roadmap for the Future Use of Technology in the Profession,
Improve Legal Education and Training, Establish Proper Work/Life Balance
for Attorneys, and Reform the Billing Structure in Law
Acting on an historic opportunity to shape the landscape of the legal
profession, New York State Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger
of New York (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP) today announced the
formation of the Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession. A
panel of top legal minds comprising a diverse range of legal
practitioners, including managing partners, law school deans and general
counsel, will study and recommend ways to create a roadmap for the
future use of technology in the profession, to improve legal education
and training, to establish proper work/life balance for attorneys, and
to reform the billing structure in law firms.
Co-chaired by Linda Addison (Partner-in-Charge, Fulbright &
Jaworski L.L.P., New York City) and T. Andrew Brown (Brown &
Hutchinson of Rochester), the Task Force will focus on four key
harnessing new technologies to improve efficiency and
to meet the challenges of the future;
training and promoting new lawyers;
developing ways for attorneys to achieve work-life balance
despite the 24/7 virtual office created by new technology; and
reforming law firm structures, including an emphasis on
the use of alternative billing methods.
Each of the four topics will be studied by distinct subcommittees
composed of experts in those respective areas.
“After weathering one of the worst years in recent memory
due to the economic downturn, bar leaders across New York and globally
are cognizant of the need to fundamentally change the way we as
attorneys do business,” said President Younger.
“As a bar association, we are obligated to serve as stewards of
our profession. As a result, our new task force will receive the benefit
of a wealth of expertise from some of the brightest minds in the legal
world. We will harness their talents and take advantage of this
opportunity to make lasting, positive changes that will chart a bold new
course for our profession,” he added.
A vast array of technologies has permanently altered the way lawyers
practice law. E-filing, e-discovery and e-marketing are just a few of
the new developments that, when used properly, can make attorneys more
efficient and help them grow their practices. The only constant is that
technology changes rapidly and those lawyers who are able to adapt and
to embrace new technologies will stand the best chance of succeeding in
In order to help our members understand and use these new
technologies related to the practice of law, a subcommittee of the task
force, chaired by John Szekeres (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and
Garrison LLP of New York City), will seek to identify the technologies
of the future and examine how lawyers can make the best use of them.
Technology will be an important component of each of the other three
Training and Promoting New Lawyers
Each year thousands of law students graduate and enter the job market
insufficiently prepared to practice law. Law firms are expected to give
on-the-job training to first and second year associates. Recent
trends indicate that more and more clients are refusing to pay for the
work of new associates.
Moreover, many associates at large law firms report that they are
unhappy with their positions. They want better training, more experience
and expanded mentoring opportunities. More than 50 percent of associates
leave their law firms before reaching their fifth year, depriving law
firms of their talent just when they are becoming profitable. One study
estimated that firms lose about $400,000 for every associate who
A task force subcommittee, chaired by Professor Mary Lynch of Albany
Law School, will explore better ways to train new lawyers, so that they
are well prepared to meet the demands of the modern client. The
subcommittee will also examine different methods to promote and to
compensate lawyers so as to improve the lifestyle of associates while
ensuring that clients feel confident that the lawyers working on their
matters are fully trained.
Practicing law is stressful and, with the advent of new technologies
like the BlackBerry, cell phones and various other technological
devices, many in the profession find it virtually impossible to leave
the office behind. More than ever, it is necessary to implement
workplace models that make it easier for lawyers, both men and women, to
raise families, to care for elderly parents or loved ones who are ill,
and to enjoy their personal lives.
A task force subcommittee, chaired by Joey Silberfein (Ropes and Gray
LLP of New York City), will examine how legal employers can best promote
healthy working environments, promote work/life balance, integrate work
and personal life commitments, and use flexible work arrangements to
enhance the profession. The topics to be addressed by this subcommittee
will include: the use of flex-time and reduced-schedule policies,
telecommuting options and job sharing.
Law Firm Structure/Alternative Billing Methods
The billable hour system is not operating as envisioned when it was
developed in the 1950s. Partners feel pressured to keep associates busy
billing long hours, while justifying their own rising billing rates.
Clients, in turn, feel that some lawyers care more about maintaining
their law firm billing machines than truly working in the clients’
While uncertainty surrounds the notion of changing a 60-year-old
billing system, alternative billing structures can be profitable for law
firms. Moreover, a new system that takes into account the changing
dynamics of the legal profession could be more satisfying to clients and
lawyers, because it would measure the quality of attorneys’ work
rather than the quantity of hours they work.
A subcommittee of the task force, chaired by Professor Gary Munneke
of Pace Law School, will work to develop best practices for law firms
regarding law firm structures, client development and alternative
The first meeting of the Task Force on the Future of the Legal
Profession is scheduled for June 23 in New York City.
The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official
statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary
state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, NYSBA
programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved
the justice system for more than 130 years. www.nysba.org
NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION, ONE ELK STREET, ALBANY, NY 12207 PH: (518) 463-3200 SECURE FX: (518) 463-5993