St. Mary's Law Journal


The American legal profession has changed dramatically over the past half-century greatly due to the solution and problem of “scale.” This was most noticeable after the American Bar Association’s adoption of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The reputation of lawyers and the legal community would continue to evolve in the eyes of the public. As such, the demand for lawyers and large law firms who had the capacity and means to handle such vast and varied issues would present itself. The increasing demand from large law firms over the years led to unprecedented growth and impact to the way in which lawyers conducted themselves. The pressures of scale were felt in a firm’s numerical growth, income for lawyers, and specialization. Issues of scale are not limited to large corporate firms, but its rippling effects extend to non-corporate firms and the greater legal community. Scale presented negative effects on trials and the overall practice of litigation.

Competition for legal work operated to make the profession more efficient but also pushes lawyers both to use scale to overwhelm adversaries and to tie lawyers tightly to the demands of their clients against any notion of public duties. As a result, increased scaling also affects our understanding of lawyer ethics. Over the years, the ABA would support and commission multiple efforts to understand and resolve ethical issues in the legal community. These initiatives sought to address the rapidly changing face of the practice of law, but the growth caused by scale is so rapid that the damage may have already been done. The pressures of scale in the legal profession are exponentially increased with an increase of substance abuse. Scale has made its way into the fabric of our legal community over half a century ago, and its effects are continually present.

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St. Mary's University School of Law


Katherine Spiser Rios