One-third of the new book "The Lawyer Bubble: A Profession in Crisis" by Steven J. Harper focuses on the solution. That's how it differs from most of the media attention to the mess the legal sector and many of its members as well as those who want to be members but can't find a job is in.
THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, FORTUNE, FORBES, BUSINESS INSIDER, and ABOVE THE LAW are among the media properties which have been attracting plenty of traffic, links, likes, shares, and comments in decrying the problem. Harper goes beyond that with a vision and concrete recommendations on how law, which he sees as a "service profession," can again become "noble." His tone is also different from that of the media because he had spent a satisfying career at one of the largest law firms Kirkland & Ellis. Instead of sour grapes, there is sadness at what is.
In essence, Harper divides the problem into two parts. One is the feeder pool of law schools, focused on maximizing revenue through tuition, which reinforces students' illusions about the probability of lucrative careers. The other is the transformation of law firms from service providers to profit maximizers. Most of us are all too familiar with what those two forces have generated in terms of human suffering. Even those equity partners bringing home $1.5 million to $5 million annually are probably unhappy - as well as angst-ridden since keeping their jobs depends on billable hours and rainmaking.
For law schools, just one recommendation is to put a contingency on their "earnings." Much of the revenue for tuition comes from federal loans, which can leave graduates in six-figure debt which currently can't be eliminated in bankruptcy. Harper observes:
" ... allowing the federal government to recover guaranteed losses from a law school (and its university) whenever a student loan became a principal contributor to an alumnus's later bankruptcy that the bankruptcy court to make ... Such a step could encourage law school administrators to rethink their current efforts to sell a legal education."
For law firms, the healing will come through those who can:
" ... create a culture that transcends the current year's partner earnings."
" ... have choices. The cumulative impact of senior partners' actions determines an institution's culture. Absolving those at the top of responsibility for their decisions implies a deprivation of free will that understates their power and disserves the profession."
In addition to actual solutions, along with a comprehensive analysis of the problems, Harper provides a masterpiece of fine writing. There is no choice but to grab a magic marker and keep underlining phrases and whole sentences which resonate. For example, in describing the human consequences of a two-tier partner system, one equity, one plain-vanilla, Harper applies the metaphor of the "scarlet letter."
As we observe his mind at work in "The Lawyer Bubble" we conclude that during his career he might have been among the last of the lawyer-statesmen.