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March|April 2006

WE OR ME?

Thank you for the articles and opening comment in the March|April issue about ideals versus profits in the practice of large law firms. The Gordon article summarizes the corrosive effects that an outsized concern for profits has on other values that lawyers must care about to retain their distinction as being professionals.

No law firm can succeed without providing sufficient financial reward to those who work there. Still, the rule of law demands more than the rule of profits that governs too many firms. Achieving a blended outcome demands many reforms. Gordon correctly laments that the bromides offered by apologists on the right like Epstein ('trust the market') better describe root causes for today's poor track record than solutions, while the left puts too much store in the important but limited concept of consumer sovereignty. Consumers have neither the time, skill, nor attention to remedy all of the imbalances between value (money, profits, winning) and other values (family, social, political, and so forth) in the law firms providing them services.

Gordon hints at the most promising (if difficult) source of reform when he writes about lawyers' behavior. In addition to seeking market and governmental reforms, we should be asking law firms and those who work there, "What does your firm stand for?" Law firms and those who work at them are the folks with the time, skill, and other resources best positioned to do something about the abandonment of the greater good for 'we' in favor of what's most profitable to 'me.'

Douglas K. Smith

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