CBA Record March-April 2021
S TRONGER TOGE THER , 50 YEARS AND COUNT I NG Some of the major issues I see the YLS tackling are the cost of legal education, access to justice, declining membership in bar associations, mental health and substance abuse issues, salaries, and private ownership of law firms.
Regarding that last issue, I would like to briefly address non-lawyer ownership. Last year, Arizona became the first state to allow non-lawyer ownership of law firms. This is not an aberration--it will become the norm. What does this mean for attorneys, and what can we do to use this development to make a brighter future for the legal profession? Anyone who has owned a firm knows that the success of your practice is based on how many paying clients you can bring in. This may seem like a “duh” moment, but not everyone thinks about the practice of law this way. You can be the greatest lawyer of all time, but if you do not have clients, then you will not be able to showcase your talents and certainly will not be financially successful. My dad always says that the golden rule is that the man with the gold makes the rules. In our industry, whoever brings in the paying cases controls the legal market. When we turn the reins over to non-lawyer ownership (and likely private equity), it will bring marketing expertise to the field of law far greater than we have ever seen. It will also bring far larger marketing budgets than most attorneys currently have. Private, non-lawyer owner- ship of law firms will control the flow of cases, and thus the “gold.” So, what does that mean for attorneys? Unfortunately, this change commoditizes lawyers and the work we do. Private, non- lawyer ownership will be looking to lower the costs of labor to increase its profits. We will be forced to accept the possibility that our value has been inflated because of our monopoly on the law and take lesser pay, or we will have to do something to preserve our livelihood. We need to come together and create an attorney union. A union is a powerful tool that should be employed to protect our profession. As non-lawyer ownership enters the arena and tries to use law school debt and lack of employment options
Young Lawyers Section past chairs gather every year to catch up, get an update on the Section, and choose representatives to the CBANominating Committee. The groupwill meet virtually in 2021. Shown above at the February 2020 gathering from the top: Leon Edelman, David Hilliard, William Oberts, Carolyn Amadon, Thomas Howell, Jonathan Amarillo, Megan Healy McClung, Andrew Gelman, Michael Rohan, Mia Jiganti, Karen Litscher Johnson, James Wilson, Beth McMeen, Matthew Passen, Mary Curry, Aurora Abella-Austriaco, Octavio Duran, Jill McCall, and Jeffrey Moskowitz.
to drive lawyers’ salaries down, we need something to balance the scales. Over the past few decades, we have seen an increased shift away from unions. In those decades, people’s incomes have failed to keep up with inflation, companies have used extra funds to perform stock buybacks instead of increasing employee wages, and the wealth divide in this country has become untenable. The Cook County Public Defender is the only lawyer’s union operating in Cook County of which I am aware. Being a Public Defender is one of the best jobs you can have in Cook County. Why? Cook County Public Defenders are paid very well relative to their counterparts across the country. They have excellent healthcare, generous vacation days, and a pension plan. A major reason for these benefits
is partly due to their union. Although certainly some attorneys benefit from the current non-unionized structure, it hurts the vast majority of us. By joining together, we can ensure that lawyers are compensated fairly. We can make it so that vacation days are no longer taboo but understood as a necessary respite from a very taxing profes- sion, and we can ensure that every lawyer is secure in retirement. In some circles, CBA stands for collective bargaining agreement. Perhaps it is destiny that we are the ones to drive this change. And finally, a special thank you to Kaitlin King, Alexander Passo, and Jacob Berger for their hard work in putting together this special YLS focused issue of the CBA Record. We hope you enjoy the issue.
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