‘The Lost Lawyer’ Revisited
In reorganising my books, I came across Anthony Kronman’s book ‘The Lost Lawyer’ again, written nearly twenty years ago. I had forgotten it! The book is about falling standards in the legal profession and the collapse of the ideal of the lawyer-stateseman.
I was much struck by the following words about smaller firms. His wise words resonate twenty years on, though large firms have done much to become less deadening places in which to work.
“One might look, first, to the smaller firms that have been created by unhappy refugees from larger ones, eager to establish an environment in which the intrinsic pleasures of law practice are more highly valued. I have no doubt that, on the whole, these firms are today more likely to offer the lawyers working in them a satisfying professional life. The division of labor in them is less extensive. The spirit of commercialism is less advanced. And some, at least, encourage a commitment to public service that few large law firms now do, except in the most begrudging and mechanical way.
But however attractive the inward culture of these firms may be, their outward position remains vulnerable. For the most part, they operate in the same urban market as their larger counterparts, and this means that to survive economically, they must often either specialize or grow, reproducing on a smaller scale the conditions that today make most large firms such deadening places to work. And even when the economic pressure to expand is light, it is often hard for those who have left large firms – despite the fact that they were unhappy in them – to escape the pull of the idea that big means great, an idea frequently defenced on the grounds that large firms attract the best-paying clients with the most-demanding problems, but whose root appeal is far stronger than this overused and overbroad rationalization can explain.”