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STATE BAR PRESIDENT STEPHEN P. YOUNGER URGES LEGAL PROFESSION TO ADAPT TO CHANGING TIMES

ALBANY--At a ceremony commemorating Law Day 2011, New York State Bar Association President Stephen P. Younger today cautioned that the legal profession is undergoing a rapid evolution and called on lawyers to identify and embrace ways to adapt to these sea-changes.

On hand for the event celebrating the legacy of John Adams were Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, Lt. Governor Robert Duffy and the esteemed judges from the state Court of Appeals.

Mr. Younger (Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler, LLP) said, "The legal profession is often characterized as being incapable of quickly adapting to change. However, the lawyers who will thrive in this season of rapid change will be those who heed John Adams' call to 'let the human mind loose.'"

"We are called to be stewards of our evolving profession. And we are called to help shape our profession's future. By fulfilling this duty, we can make sure the practice of law is not only just as satisfying to us as it was to Adams, but also remains rewarding for generations of lawyers to come," Younger added.

In June 2010, upon taking office as president of the State Bar, Younger created the Task Force on the Future of the Legal Profession. A key presidential priority, Younger charged the group with evaluating the changing profession; identifying the risks and opportunities presented; and seeking a course that comports with the professional responsibilities to clients and to the justice system and promotes lawyers' personal well-being.

The Task Force, comprising experts from a wide range of backgrounds, issued its report and a series of recommendations in four key areas highlighted below: 

How New Lawyers Are Trained:

• So that new lawyers can better meet the demands of the modern client, the Task Force recommends that they receive more skills-based training.

• The Task Force also highlights the need for more mentoring of new lawyers -- something that benefited Adams when he began practicing law, Younger noted.

How the Profession Can Better Promote Balance in Lawyers' Professional and Personal Lives:

• To address the flexibility and predictability that lawyers want in their personal and professional lives, the Task Force recommends that employers should consider policies that encourage flexible work arrangements and promote a healthy workplace.
Younger said, "Not only is it the right thing to do -- it makes good economic sense. Law firms that commit to healthier work-life balance for their lawyers will achieve better client relationships and will reduce the cost associated with employee turnover."

How Law Firms Should Relate to the Modern Client, Including the Development of Alternative Billing Systems:

• To stay competitive, the Task Force recommends that law firms examine their structures -- particularly in light of the growing use of outsourcing and even virtual law offices.

• Firms also should consider expanding their use of alternative fee arrangements which ensure value to our clients.

How Technology Impacts The Practice Of Law: 

• The Task Force recommends ways that law firms can harness technology to their advantage through better training and enhanced access to new technologies.

Younger also stressed that John Adams was a champion of access to justice who once said "If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind, whom should we serve?" Younger took the Law Day opportunity applaud the efforts of Chief Judge Lippman in promoting access to justice for all New Yorkers. He also congratulated Gov. Cuomo and Lt. Gov. Duffy for getting Albany moving again.