January 2004 Issue
Once upon a time but easily within the memory of many attorneys still in practice--typical young law school graduates took jobs as associates at firms with the intention of spending their entire professional lives at that one place--perhaps with an eventual detour into the judiciary.
If they worked hard and did good work, most associates could expect to become partners with equity stakes in their firms. Once they did, it was highly unusual to be forced out of the partnership, even if they became less productive than their peers. Likewise, it was practically unheard of for star partners to be lured away by better offers from competing law firms.
Today, that scenario seems almost like a fairy tale.
Now, new associates at many major firms are expected to bill 1,800 to 2,000 hours a year, or more. And they often start working at a firm with the assumption that they may well be moving on after two or three years, or less. Only a small fraction of associates are eventually offered partnerships. And for those who do grasp the brass ring, the prize of partnership isn’t what it used to be.
When Larry Lessig lost his very first case before the U.S. Supreme Court last January, his immediate reaction was to take it personally.
The day after the decision came down in Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186 (Jan. 15), Lessig was despondent, frustrated and unable to sleep.
It took the ABA two years of intense effort to develop and adopt model ethics provisions making it easier for lawyers to practice at least temporarily in states where they are not licensed.
That may have been the easy part of the process.
It seems like the most obvious of questions for a lawyer to ask: “Who is my client?”
But as with so many other seemingly easy questions, the answer is seldom very simple. The answer is crucial, however, to establishing whether a lawyer-client relationship exists. And the creation of that relationship triggers a series of legal and ethical duties that the lawyer owes to the client on such vital matters as confidentiality and conflicts of interest.