St. Mary's Law Journal


Undeniably, the economics of law practice motivates the profession and immerses lawyers into a new professionalism paradigm not fully addressed by existing programs and activities. Linking professionalism to economic concerns might be considered heresy by some, yet now is the time to examine why the economic realities of practicing law sometimes cut short the best aspirations for high standards. Both the American Bar Association (ABA) and the State Bar of Texas focus extensively on questions concerning professionalism in the practice of law. Lawyers face significant economic burdens from several sources, and ironically technology does not always make practice easier. Often, economic costs increase in proportion with clients’ demands for their attorneys to be constantly available and answering questions in real-time. Second, an issue stems from competition with other professionals and quasi-professionals offering more affordable and accessible form-driven legal services. An additional burden on lawyers is the evolving changes to the statutory framework and how those changes resolve conflict. These changes include tort reform, referral fee adjustments, and the increased use of arbitration mechanisms. These constraints are in addition to the economic burden of mounting law school debt accompanying many new lawyers into practice. We must consider the economic realities of law practice when formulating any approach to legal professionalism. The comprehensive nature of lifetime professionalism requires those outside the profession community to be closely involved. Capturing the right data and implementing fresh thinking will produce new synergy and improve existing programs. Yet, this level of enthusiasm cannot often be maintained in the daily grind of law practice. Nevertheless, it is fitting to recall each individual’s obligation to professional responsibility as the first core of competency.


St. Mary's University School of Law