FUTURIST PROVOKES THOUGHT FOR BAR CONFERENCE ACTION
ISBA Bar News and Illinois Courts Bulletin
“He’s going to raise your blood pressure,” George F. Mahoney said as he introduced Florida futurist Charles Robinson at the opening plenary of the ISBA Future of the Courts Conference on Dec. 9 in Chicago.
True to form, Robinson followed with dire warnings that the future of the legal profession depends on developing conceptual changes and a sharper understanding of competitive influences.
He chided lawyers for their historic allegiance to stare decisis – conducting practices the way they have always been conducted – as an exercise in “walking through life backwards.”
The “real threat” to lawyers and law firms is irrelevance, Robinson said, noting that “agility and resilience are the survival skills” that need to be acknowledged and implemented.
He suggested developing a mindset away from litigation and toward problem solving, and facing the fact that the new definition of “client” should be “customer” in a service-oriented world.
With some disdain for law firm mergers into bigger but not necessarily better institutions, Robinson used the recent coupling of Sears and K-Mart as an example of “two dinosaurs mating in hopes that the offspring will be gazelles.”
Robinson’s presentation was followed by a discourse from Loyola University Prof. Kenneth M. Johnson on demographic and economic trends that may have impacts on the legal profession.
Among the graphs and charts Johnson projected was a pie chart showing that of every dollar billed by a law firm, only 59 cents becomes lawyer income. Expenses include 19 cents for support staff and paralegals, and 22 cents for office and equipment leases, supplies, etc.
After the provocative plenary session, the 60 invited conference participants broke into smaller groups to evaluate the issues and make recommendations.
They were reconvened Dec. 10 by Joliet attorney George Mahoney, who chaired the conference planning committee. As Mahoney read each of the 61 recommendations, the conferees voted “yes” or “no” electronically.
The comparative results were flashed instantly as bar graphs on a projection screen. Some of the most strongly supported recommendations follow.
* 91.4% said the ISBA should continue to aggressively prosecute the unauthorized practice of law to protect the public.
* 91.3% said the ISBA should engage in a comprehensive marketing program to teach the public about the role and need for a lawyer.
* 82.2% said the ISBA should educate the public about the added value of using the services of a lawyer.
* 85.4% said the ISBA should better market its Lawyer Referral Service to the public.
* 93.7% said the ISBA should develop informational pamphlets and electronic products that are easily understood by the public.
* 91.1% said the ISBA should publicize pro bono and other volunteer activities that lawyers undertake.
* 93.4% said the ISBA should continue to promote civility, ethics and competence through all possible means.
* 93.6% said the ISBA should provide members with information and educational opportunities on technology.
* 90.9% said the ISBA should support a mentoring program that is coupled with practical skills training.
* 87.0% said the ISBA should encourage judges to be more efficient in employing case management techniques that include the use of technology.
* 87.2% said the ISBA should support the provision of additional resources for the operation of Illinois trial courts.