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Meet Sheldon Krantz Author of THE LEGAL PROFESSION: What is Wrong and How To Fix It
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Norm Goldman


Reviewer & Author Interviewer, Norm Goldman. Norm is the Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com.

He has been reviewing books for the past fifteen years when he retired from the legal profession.

To read more about Norm Follow Here






 
By Norm Goldman
Published on December 11, 2013
 


Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com Interviews Sheldon Krantz Author of THE LEGAL PROFESSION:  What is Wrong and How To Fix It





Today, Bookpleasures.com is honored to have as our guest Sheldon Krantz, author of THE LEGAL PROFESSION: What is Wrong and How to Fix It.

Sheldon has experienced the legal profession from every angle. As a federal prosecutor, law professor, dean of the University of San Diego Law School, partner at one of the world’s largest law firms for almost two decades, and director of New Perimeter, DLA Piper’s global pro bono affiliate, he has seen a profession that has lost its way.  Dominated by self-interest, unwilling to adapt its ways in an ever changing environment, and largely ignoring the legal needs of much of the population, he believes the legal profession is in need of serious review and reform.

Norm:

Good day Sheldon and thanks for participating in our interview

Norm:

Why did you decide to become a lawyer?

Sheldon:

I became a lawyer because I believed the legal profession was a noble calling—helping those in crisis; assuring fair and equal treatment; and helping ensure that government is responsive to public need.  Lawyers have had a special place in the evolving history of our country.  I wanted to become a continuing part of it.

Norm:

Do you believe that young lawyers are unprepared to practice law and what would you do to rectify the situation? 

Sheldon:

I am convinced that lawyers entering the profession are unprepared to practice law and I am not alone in that assessment.  In a survey conducted by LexisNexis in 2009, 90% of the lawyers responding said that law school did not prepare them to be practicing lawyers.  In THE LEGAL PROFESSION: What is Wrong and How to Fix It, I propose changes in both what and how law schools teach; a return to various forms of apprenticeships; and reforms in the bar examination process and post-graduate training and mentoring programs.

Norm: 

How has the legal profession changed in the USA over the past few decades?  As a follow up, it is said that the legal profession is in turmoil. What are the three principal reasons why you believe that the legal profession is in turmoil? 

Sheldon:

A primary change that has occurred is that the practice of law today, particularly in larger law firms, is being conducted more as a “self-promoting business” than as a “helping profession.”  The legal profession is in turmoil because clients are rebelling against the way law firms provide and charge for their services; even though there are over 1 million lawyers in America, most people with legal problems don’t have the means to hire one; and increasingly, lawyers do not like what they do.

Norm: 

A huge percentage of the population in the USA, as well as in Canada, don’t trust lawyers.  Why do you believe that is the case?

Sheldon:

The public has always had a love-hate relationship with lawyers.  In part, this is because people often deal with lawyers when they are in crisis and find themselves in adversarial situations.  But there are other reasons: we are too expensive; we make matters more complicated than they often need to be; we are too contentious; and often, because of weaknesses in training, we lack basic interpersonal skills. 

Norm:

Would you agree that attorneys are no longer at the top of the socio-economic totem pole and if so why?  As a follow up would this engender anxiety?

Sheldon:

The public tends to believe that lawyers are well paid—and  many are.  Partners in big law firms can earn millions and charge over $1,000 an hour for their services.  Associates in these firms can earn $145,000-$160,000 in their very first year out of law school.  But most lawyers do not earn this much and compensation levels are decreasing.  The National Association for Law Placement reported that the median salary for all lawyers for the class of 2012 was $61,245, down from $72,000 in 2009. Most lawyers earn the same as those working in other lower salaried professions—high school teachers, accountants, architects and civil engineers.  What engenders anxiety for younger lawyers is law student debt which averages over $125,000 for those graduating from private law schools and over $75,700 for those who went to public institutions.

Norm: 

If you could change one thing about the practice of law, what would it be?

Sheldon:

Being able to charge clients not by what our standard billable rates are but instead what they can afford to pay. 

Norm:

What motivated you to write THE LEGAL PROFESSION: What is Wrong and How to Fix It and how popular is it with your colleagues?

Sheldon:

 I decided to write the book because I continue to believe that the legal profession has the potential to become what I  believe it was truly intended for and that now is the right time to pursue the necessary reforms.  Many of those who have seen the book agree with me about the problems and what needs to be done.  The LEGAL PROFESSION has just been published so we will have to wait for further reactions but I do hope that it stimulates conversation and inspires change. 

Norm:

Could you tell us a little more about your book and what purpose do you believe it serves?

Sheldon:

My goal in writing THE LEGAL PROFESSION was not just to talk about what is wrong.  I wanted to focus more attention on what should be done about it.  Much of my emphasis in the book is on how to make the profession more responsive to client and public service needs and how to resolve the access to justice crisis.  For example, recommendations I make include having law firms shift their emphasis and give priority to identifying better and more cost-effective ways to serve clients; establishing mandatory pro bono requirements for all lawyers; and removing restrictions that preclude non-lawyers from helping to address unmet legal services

Norm: 

What will be the impact of market forces and emerging technologies on the legal profession?  Do you believe that there will come a day when robots will replace lawyers that can churn out memos, draft contracts and review documents? 

Sheldon:

I talk about this in the book.  Technology will have a huge impact on the way lawyers help clients in the future.  This can already be seen by forms and information web-based vendors like PracticalLaw.com and LegalZoom.com are providing to sophisticated corporate clients and to those who are struggling to solve their legal problems without lawyers.  There is little evidence yet that larger law firms understand the implications technology will have in the practice of law going forward.  But it must be  understood that technology is only a tool and is not a substitute for the sensitive, caring and personal advice that clients often need and lawyers must be prepared to give.  Robots will never be able to give that kind of advice.

Norm: 

Where can our readers find out more about you and your book?

Sheldon: 


 They can look at my WEB SITE and buy the book at AMAZON.COM

Norm: 

What is next for Sheldon Krantz?

Sheldon: 

I will do all I can to implement the recommendations I make in THE LEGAL PROFESSION and  stimulate discussion and debate about how to make lawyers more relevant to the problems confronting our society today.  To help promote lawyer involvement with public interest agencies, I will, for example, be donating all royalties I receive to public interest fellowships.

Norm: 

As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you?  Please answer your question.

Sheldon: 

What has given me the most gratification in being a lawyer?  My answer is the pro bono work I have done and the opportunity to direct New Perimeter, DLA Piper’s global pro bono affiliate.  I mention this because that is the essence of what the legal profession should be emphasizing: devoting time to helping those in need without even thinking about material gain.

Norm:

Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors

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