This issue of the Bulletin is dedicated to the fast-changing face of the legal profession, which is evolving in ways unimaginable even a decade ago. Will Western law firm business models work in emerging markets? What steps can legal employers take to retain their top attorneys? How can lawyers best combine for-profit and pro bono work? These are just a few of the questions now confronting a profession at a crossroads.
Here at Harvard Law School, we take such questions seriously, as reflected in our recently founded Center on Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry. Under the dynamic leadership of Professor David Wilkins, the center—part of our larger Program on the Legal Profession—is embarking on an array of initiatives aimed at examining the global transformation of the legal services market. This is the first program of this scale and scope at any law school. I’m pleased and proud that it’s here at HLS.
One of the things I find most exciting about the center is its focus on bridge-building between practitioners and HLS. The majority of HLS alums spend much of their working lives engaged in legal practice, and for that reason—as for many others—we are committed to providing resources useful to practicing lawyers (and the many HLS students who soon will join their ranks). Among its endeavors, the center has launched a terrific senior fellows program to bring some of the nation’s finest lawyers to the law school. The center also will soon pilot an executive education program for managing partners and other law firm leaders. On the research front, the center is involved in a range of large-scale projects, including a landmark assessment of U.S. lawyers’ career paths and a major study of how corporations purchase legal services.
When I speak of the “changing face” of the legal profession, I mean that quite literally. Past decades have seen a dramatic rise in the number of women and people of color graduating from law school. But we still have a long way to go, and the law school is committed to playing an active role in this area. One upcoming event reflecting this commitment is Celebration 55: The Women’s Leadership Summit, now in the early planning stages for fall 2008. You’ll soon be hearing more about this event, and I hope that you’ll plan to attend.
A common theme running through this issue is globalization. A growing number of law firms have merged and expanded into partnerships with many hundreds of lawyers—and thousands of employees—competing for business at fever pitch and struggling to integrate attorneys from different nations and cultures. You’ll also read about the outsourcing of legal work to India—a phenomenon now under study by two HLS students.
And the impact of globalization extends far beyond the corporate arena. Both at home and abroad, our alumni and students are committed to making a difference, helping to start new pro bono traditions where they have not existed before and devising creative ways to integrate private-sector work and public service.
Finally, we pay tribute in this issue to the late Professor Louis B. Sohn, who served on the HLS faculty for 35 years and passed away earlier this year. A celebrated international law scholar, he played an integral role in the establishment of the post-World War II international system. He will be deeply missed.
I hope you enjoy this issue of the Bulletin. This is your law school, and I hope you find much of value here about your profession.