The Once and Future Profession: Autonomy, Intellectualism, and Obligation

29 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2017

See all articles by Jon Garon

Jon Garon

Shepard Broad College of Law

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 27, 2017


Three critical elements will define the modern legal profession: autonomy, intellectualism, and obligation. The first of these elements is the personal autonomy that should protect the professional in her role as independent counselor, guide, and confidant. Autonomy has eroded due to increased billing expectations, commoditization of practice, efficiencies of technology, and a comparison with more autonomous environments in the technology industries. Intellectualism, the second element, was once the critical intellectual role that lawyers played as thought leaders. Unfortunately, a systemic attack on intellectualism, which began during the McCarthy hearings, has continued with ever-greater impact, stripping public figures and civic leaders of their roles as public intellectuals, leading society with their insights and rigorous debate. The third element is the professional obligation to uphold justice, a concept that is perhaps the most discussed and its absence noted for centuries. The ideal of the lawyer’s obligation often falls far short of its reality, and the dissonance leaves lawyers frustrated. While this reality may have always been the case, the related changes to the accepted norms of equality and justice have made this a much more poignant concern. As law schools look to shape the next generation of lawyers, we must reinvigorate these three attributes and establish a new legal profession that commits to them. The practicing bar, our trade association representatives, and our elected judiciary will be powerless to make this transition. Law school deans, faculties, and administrations are therefore the primary voices for change. The vehicle is a new legal services approach that funds law students’ tuition in exchange for years of moderate-pay legal service.

Keywords: Legal Profession, Law School, Legal Education, Tuition, Incubator, Intellectualism, Autonomy, Low Bono

JEL Classification: Z18, K00

Suggested Citation

Garon, Jon M., The Once and Future Profession: Autonomy, Intellectualism, and Obligation (April 27, 2017). University of Toledo Law Review, Vol. 48, Winter 2017, Available at SSRN:

Jon M. Garon (Contact Author)

Shepard Broad College of Law ( email )

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