Lessons from the Present: Three Crises and Their Potential Impact on the Legal Profession

80 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2021 Last revised: 15 Nov 2021

Date Written: February 25, 2021


The United States faces three simultaneous crises: a pandemic, a civil-rights reckoning, and a crisis of democracy. The first of these crises has sparked dramatic—though potentially temporary—changes to the practice of law: moving much legal work to remote settings almost overnight, after the profession had largely resisted making such accommodations for decades. The second has sparked an assessment of the extent to which the practice of law and the legal system are both riddled with racism and institutional bias. The third, the crisis of democracy, has lawyers at its center, filing frivolous claims and fomenting an armed insurrection with designs on overturning the results of a free and fair election. If the past is any guide, these crises will provoke a period of introspection within the legal profession and prompt calls for change. What the profession tends to do in the wake of such crises and in response to such calls, however, is tinker around the margins of the rules regarding the operation of the profession, leading to little substantive, long-term, formal change. It is entirely possible, if not likely, that the legal profession could respond to these crises according to this same pattern. It does not have to be that way, however. This Article calls on the profession—even as we are still in the midst of these crises in many ways—to seize the opportunity to advance real, lasting, and meaningful change and recommit to the central role it must play in the defense of the rule of law and democracy.

Keywords: Legal Ethics, Diversity & Inclusion, Rule of Law

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Brescia, Raymond H., Lessons from the Present: Three Crises and Their Potential Impact on the Legal Profession (February 25, 2021). 49 Hofstra Law Review 607 (2021), Albany Law School Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3792987

Raymond H. Brescia (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States

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