The Brits’ Clementi Commission: Our American Elephant in the Living Room

Where to begin!? I keep trying to write the law-blog version of the “Great American Novel”–which is of course some sort of definitive pronouncement on the impending Clementi reforms. (That’s Sir David Clementi–the culprit–at left–otherwise quite a regular chap I’ve heard). This writer is, however, frustrated as all of his amazingly-insightful observations, warnings, hints, inferences and conjectures have, regrettably, all been said before. Sigh!

The British are Coming!
However, what perhaps has not been underscored is the intersection between the challenges presented by our neighbors across “the Pond” abandoning the ancient taboo of non-attorney ownership of law firms (and the attendant infusion of massive capital that it suggests) and the lack of leadership demonstrated in our “land of the Brave” with respect to it.

How Many Lawyers Does it Take . . . ?

I suggest that law firm leaders, and every one else concerned with the structure of our practice (which should be all 1.1 million of us), should be putting our collective thinking caps on to figure out how we are going to adopt such a strategy (I think whether is pretty much a foregone conclusion at this point given the relative economic disadvantages of NOT doing it), and in what degree, and how soon.

But, regrettably, our American penchant for last-minute heroics is the bane of forethought. We aren’t doing a bloody thing about it, and the Brits are likely to have engaged in the process whole hog, by some estimates, as early as 2008, or perhaps 2010. Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but this is rather startlingly soon considering we have only 51 systems of ethics to rewrite as well as legislation to fix, to say nothing of 10,000 partnership agreements.

That Hideous Silence

Well, regardless of your opinion of whether or how or when we will engage in Clementi-style reforms, it is telling, telling! that there has been almost no substantive discussion about it. I’m afraid the shrill beating of drums on the part of a half-dozen bloggers does not a national discussion make. Law firm leaders ought to be, if they are not in fact, the most brilliant, savvy, aggressive and in-touch lawyers on the planet. So where are the Jobs’s, the Gates’s, who will demonstrate the creativity and audacity necessary to push through major change–or perhaps perform the sociological version of “cold-fusion” by figuring out how to slip in sea-changes creatively without creating a ripple?

Trite Analogy

Regardless, the winds are changing in our global legal market and we must be ready and able to trim our sails accordingly to set the best course to our port of call: higher efficiency, greater customer service, more innovation in technology and plain ole’ vanilla lawyering. The nitty-gritty of law practice cannot flower in metaphorical soil (aka the structure of our practice on the macro level) if it is not properly tended.

Please, please! may we now truly exhibit in-depth, rational, strategic thinking?

Shameless Plug
For more ranting on this topic, see my other “channel”, ad arguendo. (Don’t groan, Steve said it was ok to plug!)

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