It used to be the Standing Committee on One-Eyed Lawyers, but that was changed when it was pointed out that it was politically incorrect, and diminished One-Eyed Lawyers. Lawyers with One Eye was totally better. All other committees were subject to this committee’s approval, because the ABA was the land of the blind (though it can’t call itself that, because it would be hurtful).
Under the past president, Paulette Brown, the ABA died. In her post-mortem, she expressed how proud she was of her tenure. She promised that the “ABA would be ‘social engineers for justice,'” and she delivered. Her goal was diversity and inclusion, not just for lawyers but for society, in the belief that the ABA held sway over the universe. After all, her views and those of the social justice engineers of the ABA could not be wrong.
“The ABA showed the world that a law degree is more than just a piece of paper. It is power,” she said. “And we put that power to great use.”
And the rest of the world laughed at Brown, for she had only one eye. But all the lawyers who are blind (formerly known as Blind Lawyers) nodded their bobble heads, gushed and emoted, because their ABA president with one eye spoke the lovely words that made them feel less pathetic and sorry about their sad and miserable existence.
But their sad and miserable existence was only to get worse. Not because there was no alternative, but because that was the natural outcome of being blind.
Among the many initiatives that made the bobbleheads shake under Brown’s eye was the “Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United States” by the Commission on the Future of Legal Services. Putting aside Kevin O’Keefe’s complaint that there was no one on this commission representing the legal tech, because in the world of the blind, LinkedIn was about as cool as technology could be, the commission’s recommendations for delivery of legal services in the future began with a quote from the incoming ABA president (the first time two women were consecutive presidents, because that’s important in the scheme of diversity and inclusion).
“It is neither easy nor comfortable to embrace innovation, but we must do so—now. As lawyers, we have so much to offer to those who need help, but millions cannot access our services. This has to change, and we must drive that change. If we want to make justice for all a reality, we need to listen to different perspectives and open ourselves to new approaches and ideas, all while following our core value of protecting the public.”
Linda A. Klein
ABA PRESIDENT-ELECT 2015-16
Who doesn’t want “justice for all”? Except in law, there are winners and losers. And each views justice through their own eyes, assuming they have eyes. When they don’t get what they want, they’ve been denied justice. All the sweet bullshit doesn’t change that.
But this is about Access to Justice, the warmly-turned phrase of social justice engineers who feel for the “80% of Americans who can’t afford legal services.” They go on to offer 12 recommendations, ranging from vague and meaningless to the ridiculous and absurd. It’s not so much that there’s anything to dislike in the recommendations, as they reflect the naivete and politics of lawyers who are blind (and deaf and dumb, but that phrase is forbidden, and so it won’t be used).
But none of this will matter to the lawyers who actually practice law, because you will be working for LegalZoom soon enough. Or Dairy Queen. If one has two eyes, one sees that none of the numbers work. Calls for public funding of legal needs because people would rather spend their disposable income on iPhones than lawyers (and who can blame them, really) won’t work, but even if they did, there will be no one to fund. At best, the dregs of higher education will be the only ones attending law schools below the top 14, filling seats with their LSAT scores of 72.
And no technology, innovation, whatever, is going to change the hard numbers. There are a handful who will earn $180,000 their first year out at the few Biglaw firms that survive, and the rest will bow and scrape for take home pay of $50,000, if they’re lucky. While lawyers starve, the ABA is concerned with the poor souls who don’t want to spend money on lawyers.
The profession is dying. There will be no great trial lawyers in the future, because there will be no opportunity to gain the experience to become a great trial lawyer. Trials are dead. The few smart kids who go into law will cluster at HYS, because going to Bumfuck Law School is to doom oneself to a life of poverty, exacerbated by over $100,000 in debt and three years of lost tips at Red Lobster.
It’s not that young people who want to serve won’t be interested, but they will realize that it’s not viable. Someday, when they stop playing Pokemon Go, they may meet someone and have children, who will want to eat. Every day. And their split of the referral fee from LegalZoom or Avvo won’t cover the rent, no less new shoes for the kids. They won’t be able to pay for their own services.
When there are no lawyers left to represent regular folks, except the handful too incapable of math to realize they made a terrible bet, and even they will aspire to mediocrity as routines are taken over by machines and the skills they need to develop for late in their careers no longer exist, the Lawyer with One Eye can proudly point to her accomplishment. She will have achieved perfect diversity and inclusion. She will have eradicated hurt gender feelings. She will have turned the ABA into the well-oiled social justice engineer that all the bobbleheads hoped for.
Except there will be no more competent lawyers. Was that what the One Eyed Lawyer hoped to accomplish?
Before there can be a profession capable of helping others, there must be a healthy, competent profession. It’s just math. Lawyers are renowned for not being good at math. Lawyers with one eye are especially bad, apparently, as are the bobbleheads.
At Fault Lines, I cross Eddie Hartman today, one of the founders of LegalZoom. Eddie is very good at math and has two eyes. He’s smart enough to play the words of the Lawyer with One Eye for his corporate advantage. Be nice to Eddie, because he and others like him will soon be the only game in town if you want to feed your kids with that very expensive piece of social engineering paper on your wall. At least you can rest assured that no one will ever mention the word “girl,”* as that would be an ethical violation.