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Redefining the Practice of Law

New Trends in Office Design, Technology and Managing Competition Create Challenges and Opportunities

The legal industry is in the midst of tremendous changes that will inevitably have a profound impact on the way attorneys approach their business. In the wake of these changes, law firms are being challenged to control rising expenses, improve client services and responsiveness, boost efficiency and infuse technological support to improve overall productivity. New trends in space planning, document technology, data security and the services offered will all redefine how law offices practice, how they meet the ever-changing needs of their client base, and how they strategically position themselves competitively.

Gaining a Competitive Edge

While much has changed about law, law office design and technology, the challenge to maintain a competitive edge remains of primary interest to law practices. Taking the necessary steps to ensure survival in this ever-changing industry will prevail as the legal sector is transformed. Embracing technological advances in document management, storage and retrieval; revolutionizing the traditional office space to allow more mobility, agility and flexibility; and opening our eyes to a broad spectrum of external services will all become key success factors.

In a recent survey of the 1200 largest U.S. law firms, 98% of attorneys agreed that telecommuting will increase over the next 10 years. How will your law firm effectively meet the objectives necessary to help your business thrive in this competitive market without compromising core business? How will you implement and balance these changes to maximize profitability and gain a competitive edge?

The process begins by developing a better understanding of what the key Law Trends are and how these trends can shape the way your business operates and, ultimately, how they will affect the bottom line.

How Will The Trends Shape The Way Your Business Operates?

Building Selection and Design: Traditional high-rent law space is giving way to more streamlined real estate holdings as large firms consolidate operations and opt for functional, simplified space. While impressive workspace still prevails, having an expensive, high-profile property may no longer make good business sense. To aid in the building selection, more law practices are seeking the expertise of an unbiased, tenant-only real estate broker to assist them in the building selection process. Architects added to the leasing team early in the process assist law firms in developing specific space requirements by analyzing the cultural and functional aspects of the business. Many firms are opting for sustainable design as this initiative reaches main stream. The long-term goal: to create a space that meets functional requirements and positively reflects the company.

TRENDS TO WATCH – Real Estate Opulent, high-rent real estate for law practices are shifting to smaller, more efficient office spaces. Trends indicate that more attorneys are utilizing their office space as a tool to support staff, enhance services, and create a workspace that promotes flexibility, collaboration and technology advancement.

Office Space and Size: While the influence of defining status and communicating brand visibility remains important in the legal sector, law firm trends indicate that office space and allocation within the practice are changing dramatically. With many law practices seeking to reduce overhead, spatial reduction has become one of the single most important means of streamlining expenses. Within the office itself, shared offices for retired partners, universal workstations, consolidation of conference spaces and reduction in law library space are at the forefront of changes. War rooms or, essentially, central group spaces for attorneys working on case trials, are becoming the norm allowing a cost-effective way to support teams in an environment that supports collaboration. Commuter offices with connections for computers and telephones are providing flexible convenience aimed at providing a reserved space for visiting attorneys or retired partners.

Space as a Tool – Sensible, Simple and Sophisticated Law offices of the future are more diverse than ever. Space doesn’t necessarily equate to status as more law firms are scaling down to reduce overhead and viewing space as a tool to help them run their business more effectively. More offices are opting for healthier, sustainable environments, more relaxed, communal surroundings with better services and, certainly, more mobility to facilitate meetings from virtually anywhere inside or out of the office. Office space and the profound affect it can have on the overall productivity of your office are driving a change in how practices view the profile of their space.

Three factors to be considered when determining space requirements: Simple – Consider how your office operates, the proximity of office space to key amenities, support clusters and teaming environments. Efficiency within the office will enhance greatly if you consider the process and create spaces that accommodate them.

Functional – Furniture plays a key role in the functionality of your office. Successful furniture selection and placement can prove extremely beneficial allowing for the reduction of total office square footage as well as freeing up prime floor space. In addition, consolidation of conference spaces, clustering meeting spaces and shifting traditional book storage to research zones can have a vast impact on how your business operates.

Effective — Office space must have agility to function effectively enabling you and your staff to quickly respond to changing needs. New offices must meet current demands and provide the necessary foundation for future growth and technological advancement.

Document Management: Paperless Office – Myth or Fact? Since the inception of desk top computers paperless offices have been a dream of most businesses. Most law practices question whether this goal of a paperless office is truly attainable. The truth is, paper is a necessary, key part of how law offices practice and, to this day, a good portion of day-to-day work is still paper-based. However, there is hope. Technological advancements are driving offices toward a paperless, or, at the very least, paper reduced environment.

Through advanced technology, attorneys have options to assist them in record management (RM), the process of identifying, organizing, maintaining and accessing all the records that are created and received by the organization during its day-to-day operations. New options include a myriad of choices to convert paper documents into searchable digital archives including digital scanners, document management, document storage and outsourcing.

However, making the transition to a paperless, or paper reduced office, is a daunting task for most law practices. Many question where to begin, what technology to adopt, and what affect these changes will have on their bottom line.

Creating an environment where attorneys partner with technology specialists to tailor their needs will be a key success factor. As advances are adopted, electronic workflow processes, document retrieval systems and data security will be the norm. Knowledge management will be a critical success factor as clients demand more and expect to pay less.

While many firms have been reluctant to take advantage of these advances due to security challenges; the future will be driven by firms who embrace technology as a means to improve process and efficiency.

TRENDS TO WATCH As technology continues to be a catalyst for change in the legal sector, efficient systems and state-of-the-art advances in data security and accessibility will drive law firms of the future to shift toward a more digital environment.

Data Security: Ensuring vital data is kept safe from corruption, controlling accessibility and ensuring absolute privacy of personal data is of primary importance to law practices. While most law firms take adequate steps to ensure protection of personal data, breaches can and do happen. As a result, efficient systems and state-of-the-art advances in data security and accessibility are driving law firms of the future to shift toward more digital technology. As advances are adopted, electronic workflow processes and document retrieval systems will become the norm. Many firms are reluctant to take advantage of these advances due to security challenges; however, the future will be lead by firms who work with technology to improve process and efficiency.

Staffing Ratios / Outsourcing: As many attorneys seek ways to reduce overhead expenses and increase revenue, the once integral services provided within the walls of law practices are moving toward outsourcing ratios. The once expansive team of secretaries, typists, paralegals and administrators are reducing dramatically. Many firms are moving from a 1 or 2-to-1 ratio to as high as 4-to-1 metric.

A number of large law firms are embracing the idea of outsourcing routine legal work locally, nationally, and in some cases, internationally to India, South Korea, Australia and other locales with far lower labor costs. Support clusters in which a group of professionals support a large number of attorneys are becoming more commonplace along with administrative and IT support staffing positioned in a more remote, cost effective location. The U.S. legal industry, according to government data, is a $184 billion industry with a million trained attorneys and approximately 500,000 support personnel such as paralegals and assistants. Trends indicate that thousands of support personnel jobs will outsourced within the next several years.

TRENDS TO WATCH: Offshore Outsourcing This year 12,000 legal jobs moved offshore, a mere 1%; however, by the year 2015, look for this trend to continue as a projected 40,000 jobs become outsourced.

Libraries / Research: Extensive law libraries which once occupied a large portion of law office space are being replaced by desktop technology. Many firms are converting the space once reserved for the hard-bound library to more flexible multi-purpose meeting spaces. Traditional book storage and research libraries are being replaced by research zones within the office occupying minimal square footage. Look for the library of the future to be small enough to fit on a disc in your pocket.

Conference Rooms: Technology, video conferencing, connectivity, collaboration and flexibility are all buzz words associated with the shift in conference rooms. What was once the traditional, formal hub of the firm is now being replaced by a group of conference, break-out areas and flexible support spaces offering the latest in audio and video conference equipment, connectivity and displays. Meetings are taking place more informally in the cafeteria, small niche centers or in what used to be the library. Law firms are establishing conference centers with state- of-the-art technology and the latest trends in flexible furniture design to accommodate small or large meetings. New conference space incorporates a more casual, collaborative work space with some offices incorporating coffee bars to promote and enhance social interaction.

TRENDS TO WATCH: A Shift in Conference Rooms What was once the traditional, formal hub of the firm is now being replaced by a group of conference, break-out areas and flexible support spaces offering the latest in audio and video conference equipment, connectivity and displays.

Negotiation/Arbitration Tools: Law practices are discovering the importance of using space to their advantage to weigh the outcome of negotiation and arbitration. By factoring in the psychology of physical space and using it as a tool attorneys are able to potentially shift outcomes in their favor. Comfortable, relaxing, keeping room facilities are being utilized for attorney clients allowing a stress-free foundation from which to negotiate.

Ancillary Services: In order to meet the diverse needs of their client base and generate more income, many attorneys are layering ancillary services onto their current repertoire of law services. Ancillary services enhance the value-added allure for law practices by providing clients with additional, convenience services to meet their immediate needs. Becoming a “full-service provider” offering a variety of legal and non-legal services, however, has its share of ethical concerns that are part of an ongoing debate.

 

Nigeria is as pluralistic in her legal systems as she is in ethnic make ups. There are basically three systems of law in Nigeria I.e the English law, Customary law and Islamic law (also known as Sharia law).

Each of these laws has its system of marriage, though they have their differences and similarities. All the three systems of marriage are equal at least in terms of their recognition as marriage that could be legally contracted in Nigeria by anyone who wishes.

It is possible for a person to contract two marriages, one under the Customary law and the other under the Islamic law but this is unacceptable as far as English law is concerned.

It is important at this point to have a look at each of the marriages with some details.

English Law Marriage

Contracting marriages in line with the tenets of the English law is governed by the Marriage Act in Nigeria. As far back as 1860 the court had, in Hyde vs. Hyde, defined marriage as ” the voluntary union for life of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others”. This has been accepted as the meaning of the English law marriage ever since. This type of marriage clearly abhors polygamy.

For a marriage to be valid and qualified as an English law marriage in Nigeria, the under listed conditions stipulated by the Marriage Act must be complied with.

Conditions for Valid English Law Marriage

  • Parties to the marriage must have agreed to be husband and wife
  • The man must have filed a notice in the Marriage Registry within the area where the marriage is to be celebrated, stating his intention to get married
  • The notice is then entered in the Marriage Notice Book by the registrar
  • The notice remains open for a minimum of 21 days before the Registrar can issue Marriage Certificate
  • During the 21 days, anybody who so wishes may enter a caveat as an objection to the planned marriage
  • At this point, the Registrar will refer the caveat to the High Court which will determine the fate of the caveat one way or the other
  • Where the caveat is held valid by the High Court, the Registrar will be stopped from issuing the Marriage Certificate until the objection raised in the caveat ceases to exist
  • Where the High Court invalidates the caveat, the Registrar will proceed to issue the Marriage Certificate. The issuance of the Marriage Certificate should not be earlier than 21 days or later than 3 months from the time of filling a notice of intention to get married by the man.

Other Factors That May Prevent Issuance of the Marriage Certificate

Apart from any objection that may be contained in a caveat, the Registrar must not issue the Marriage Certificate in any of the following situations:

  • where none of the parties has been resident in the area where the marriage is to be celebrated 15 days preceding the issuance of the marriage certificate
  • where the Registrar is satisfied that one of the parties is a minor (I.e below age of 16)
  • where consent of one of the parties to the marriage is obtained by fraud, dress, undue influence, mistaken identity or a party incapable of giving consent due to mental ill-health
  • where the parties have blood relationship like cousins
  • where one of the parties is already married either under the English or Customary law.

Celebration of Marriage

The marriage itself can take place in either of two places I.e the Marriage Registry or a place of worship.

In the case of the Marriage Registry, the following conditions apply:

  • it must take place before the registrar
  • there must be at least two witnesses, and
  • it must take place between 10 am to 4pm.

While in the case of a place of worship, the rules are these:

  • it must be conducted by a recognized minister of the religious organization concerned
  • the place of worship must be a place licensed under the Marriage Act to conduct marriage
  • there must be minimum of two witnesses
  • before conducting the marriage, the minister must be certain that the Marriage Certificate has been obtained by the parties
  • the marriage must take place between 8am to 6pm
  • the minister must send a copy of the Marriage Certificate to the Registrar of Marriage within 7 days of the marriage

English law marriage is the most complicated to conclude as will be seen later in the article, when compared to the other two systems of marriage in Nigeria.

Customary Law Marriage

Customary law marriage is the easiest marriage to contract in Nigeria. It is a marriage celebrated according to the customs and traditions of any local tribe in Nigeria. In terms of marriage, varied tribes in Nigeria have a lot in common.

Essentials of a Customary Law Marriage

  • Agreement between a man and a woman to be husband and wife
  • Parental consent especially that of the woman’s side
  • Payment of the dowry by the man to the woman’s family
  • Handing over of the woman to the man.

Once the above conditions are fulfilled, a Customary law marriage is validly contracted. This marriage accommodates polygamy so the man can marry as many wives as he wishes. In fact, there is no limit to the number of women that a man can marry under various native customs in Nigeria.

Islamic Law Marriage

Islamic law marriage refers to a marriage celebrated by two Muslims (I.e a male & a female) in line with the dictates of the Sharia law. Islamic law allows a Muslim male to marry up to 4 wives provided that he will ensure fairness, equity and justice among them.

To have a marriage validly celebrated in line with the Islamic law, the following must be fulfilled:

  • the parties to the marriage must have agreed to marry each other
  • the consent of the woman’s father or uncle or any male family member is compulsory
  • the man must give a gift( it could be money or an article) as dowry. The monetary value of whatever is given must not be less than N5000. There is no maximum
  • celebration of marriage itself must be witnessed by the minimum of two witnesses.

Once the above requirements are met, an Islamic law marriage is deemed to have taken place.

What I have planned to do by this article is to present succinct picture of different marriages that Nigerians and Non-Nigerians residing in Nigeria can contract depending on the individual’s preference.

The only marriage that is not free for all is the Islamic law marriage which can only take place between a Muslim male and female. However, a Muslim male is allowed to marry a female who belongs to “the People of the Book”. This refers to Jewish or Christian females.

Apart from Christians and Jewish faithfuls, a Muslim male cannot marry from any other faith. It might be interesting to hear that the converse is the fate of a Muslim female. She can only marry a fellow Muslim male. This smacks of a subtle strategy to win more converts into the Islamic fold.

Having said that, I believe Nigeria is one of the countries where multiplicity of marital choices is well taken care of. Although marriage between same sex or people who are closely related by blood is not allowed and there is no indication that that will happen in no distant future.

It is quite funny to note that some people term marriage under the English law as “legal marriage” as if other marriages are not. This is wrong. As a matter of fact, all the three marriages are legal.

 

After you have decided to consider law education as a career after completing your graduation there are two things to be considered even then. First of all you will have to choose the most suitable field of law education for you to be adopted as your career. There are several fields in legal education that can be specialized for better career prospects. Secondly the suitable and reputed law school that can provide you law education in the field of your choice. You can research through the prospectuses of various schools of legal studies to choose for a suitable law college with a reputation to get a worthy certificate in legal practice. You should not confine your search for good law institute to your region only as it is better to shift to other states to get admission in a reputed law institute for better prospect in your legal career.

The candidate of law education must have A Level certification for his undergraduate courses and passed out the aptitude tests to get admission in some reputed law school. It is necessary for a good career prospects to get admission in good law college as it ensures the standard of knowledge of the candidate. After getting admission in your desired field of law you can get specialization in that field that will add to your practice of law.

Most of the reputed law colleges select the candidates for there institution with A level certification in their undergraduate education and having good scoring in ethical and professional records from the undergraduate institute. SAT and LSAT results also control the admission process of good schools of law as these tests also include the test for writing skills of the candidates that is very much necessary for the candidates of law courses. If any candidate does not perform as per the expectation of law institute authorities, he can be turned out and most of them are strict in this respect as it effects their reputation.

It is not easy to get any law course cleared easily as every field of law has its own challenges to be cleared to make good career in it. The candidate for degree in law must be prepared to face all the difficulties in the way of getting law degree with excellent scoring to make a flourishing career throughout his life. The job prospects become bright for the candidates who become successful in getting law degree with good scoring as it is not easy to get a good job these days due to recession in world economy. There are long queues of job seekers even with excellent scores in their degree courses.

Some of the law institutions providing law education also help bachelors of law who had cleared out from their schools in placing them, through their placement cells, for some legal services with certain establishments that contact them for this purpose. But even then the placement involves the reputation of both entities, the law institute and the candidate himself. So the aspirant of bachelor of law degree must clear all his doubt during his law education well in time to be clear for all the relevant concepts of law.

Thus, you should choose the most suitable law education for you to get a certificate in legal practice with excellence for a prospective future in that field.

 

This article takes a snapshot in time of the relevance of international law. It does so by taking the historic purposes of international law as the point of departure for floating the idea that international law must cater to the reality of contemporary times to be sufficient.

For long, international law or the law of nations was understood as the panacea for resolving inter-state disputes. Those who viewed international law through the lens of criticism could but quote a few instances of its absolute failure. However, even the biggest of its opponents could not criticize international law endlessly because there were no Iraqs, Afghanistans, 9/11s or 7/7s for that matter.

The same is no longer true. A layman or a lawyer alike would rather paint a bleak picture of international law through the brush of the realities of ongoing armed conflicts to which international law has failed to put an end. A very important question naturally comes to mind: is international law living through challenging times? It is indeed. Is it sufficient as it stands today? Yes and no.

Historically, international law has served two main purposes: it has provided a platform for like-minded states (the traditional subjects of international law) to resolve their disputes through mutual debate. Secondly, it has narrowed down exceptions to the use of force. Unfortunately, these very purposes continue to be cast in serious doubt by recent developments at the international level.

“Like-mindedness” is a comforting triggering factor for states to agree on a dispute resolution framework. However, it is precisely just that. States are increasingly refusing to enter into negotiations with emerging subjects of international law on the pretext that they are opposed to civilization or that they do not share their vision of “like-mindedness”. Consequently, a disparity or grey area now exists between states and emerging subjects which is increasing by the day.

This disparity may partly be explained by sovereignty which is the jealously guarded claim by a state over its territory and existence. Sovereignty, in its nature, is opposed to claims by insurgents or terrorists. Historically, insurgencies, rebellions and terrorist acts have been dealt with with an iron fist by states. The veil of sovereignty has been pierced by international law mostly in the backdrop of the collective will of the international community. For instance the UNSC authorized collective action against Iraq in 1990 in which the sovereignty of Iraq was negotiated to the collective will of the international community.

However, sovereignty does not and can never constitute the biggest threat to international law. In the opinion of the authors, the gravest threats to contemporary international law lie in (i) the non-recognition that the context of “like-mindedness” as originally envisaged is in a gradual state of transition, (ii) that emerging subjects of international law are now a reality of the times in which we live and, (iii) the belief of states and emerging subjects that power is the sole constitution of international law.

“Like-mindedness” explains the most essential percept of the earliest foundations of international law. “Like-mindedness” is conceptually grounded in the belief that “peace and mutual co-existence” is the right of every state in the world. States elevated themselves to a horizontal level of the status of “equals”. In line with the understanding that “equals cannot be treated unequally”, states identified themselves as equals in terms of their legal rights and obligations towards one another even if the political and economic influence that they held individually would change.

A potent manifestation of “like-mindedness” inherent in traditional international law is the United Nations (UN) created in 1945. Its purposes included reaffirming the international rule of law, developing friendly relations among states and achieving international cooperation in solving disputes between states.

But the five decades of UN life and consequently the success of international law is viewed differently. Those who see the glass as half empty quote instances of the failure of the UN in providing solution to the Israel-Palestine dispute, putting an end to the Cold War, or in stopping the invasion of Iraq. Those who see the glass as half-full paint a picture in which a world without UN is shown hostage to chaos, with war as the rule and peace the exception. Both these views are tenable but fail to explain the reasons behind the inadequacy of international law in the present times.

The “like-mindedness” which was a founding feature of international law and the UN has inevitably failed to comprehend the reality posed by the emerging subjects of international law. In the past few years, notably after the tragic events of September 11, international law has been put to trial. The established principles of international law have been cast into doubt. It is increasingly being argued that they do not apply to emerging subjects.

It is a fallacy to assume so because when law and material reality collide, it is law that must accommodate. Insurgencies and terrorism are a reality. Concerted international efforts need to be made to find solutions through dialogue and debate. Account should be taken of the political milieu passing through which emerging actors of international law have matured at the international level. Disputes between states and emerging subjects of international law must be addressed through a bi-lateral framework in which they are treated as the “new equals” in an evolved paradigm of “like-mindedness”.

International law needs to avoid the allegation that its constitution is grounded in power. Sense of ownership over international law is crucial to international dispute resolution. It is one thing to despise terrorist acts and quite another to rule out negotiations or dialogue with terrorists. The first is a corollary of humanity. The second of common sense and wisdom. Allowing emerging subjects of international law to benefit from international rights and guarantees would inculcate in them a sense of responsibility towards international law.

International law has taken centuries to evolve but could easily fall victim to power if reason does not evolve its journey with the changed circumstances. It is important for internationalists to grasp the ramifications of “change” introduced by emerging subjects of international law. Responses that have familiarity with reality would avoid misconstruing the purposes of international law. Fear of risking sympathy towards emerging subjects of international law must be discarded altogether and they must be allowed to generate their perspective in an environment of dialogue.

 

I grew up in the 1980s when it seemed that everyone wanted to be a lawyer like the ones on LA Law. The 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s (up until 2007) was the era of Big Law when the promise of a $100,000 to $160,000 salary was, it seemed, extended to anyone graduating from a top 20 school and to many people graduating from a top 50 law school with great grades and clerkships.

Even in previously bad economies – 1990 to 1992, 1998-2000 – the law profession seemed to survive, if not thrive. Hundreds of thousands of smart (and even not-so-smart) people were encouraged to become lawyers by a combination of outrageous salaries – in 2007, Cravath, one of the top corporate law firms in the country, offered bonuses of nearly $100,000 for top performing associates – federally subsidized student loans, the supposed security of a protected profession (with its bar exams), and putative prestige (see any John Grisham novel).

Of course, the truth of all that was always a little suspect. While a top 20 law grad back in the day could expect to earn a six-figure salary, unless he chose to go into public interest law, many graduates didn’t have the same luck. And while it’s really neat to think of yourself as a high minded constitutional litigator, or a trial lawyer from a Grisham novel, the practical, day-to-day experience of being a lawyer was always (and still is) grinding.

Moments of glory are few and far between. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the practice of criminal law and enjoy helping clients. And as my father might say, it’s better than digging a ditch. But the day-to-day practice of law is not out of a movie script. It involves helping people with a DWI, drug charge, or embezzlement or larceny. Only rarely are most lawyers involved in high profile murder trials involving movie stars!

The demand for law school and the government subsidization of school led to the growth of the school industry, aided by publications like U.S. News with its ludicrous school rankings. Schools became financial profit centers of universities (like successful sports programs) and in many cases were required to kick back money to the central university administration to help underwrite the rest of the less profitable parts of the university.

The costs were passed onto recent graduates and, ultimately, the legal consumer in the form of high legal fees, especially in corporate law.

Who benefited? One of the beneficiaries was the law school faculty. The typical faculty member at a decent law school has next to no practical experience. The person went to a top law school, practiced for a year or two, and then went out into the legal academy job market at the age of 28 or 29 to get a faculty job. A few law professors keep up their practical skills by performing pro bono legal work, or by consulting on the side.

Most law professors know precious little about what it means to be a lawyer, and they’re actually proud of this. That’s because the rest of the university has always looked at law schools (and business schools) as essentially trade schools. Since law professors don’t want to think they’re engaged in a massive Vocational Technical school, they try to distance themselves from the practice of law.

Second, the actual curriculum associated with law school has changed little from the 1930s, when it focused on 19th century common law concepts or ancient tort or property law ideas. These principles have very little to do with the basic way property, tort, or criminal law is practiced in modern America. Most of these laws are statutory, not common law, anyway.

As if to excuse their woefully inadequate ability to train lawyers, law professors and law school deans love to tell incoming students that they don’t teach you how to be a lawyer, they train you how to think like a lawyer through the Socratic Method.

Of course “thinking like a lawyer” is a silly concept. All it really means is thinking carefully about an issue. Yes, it requires a little bit of discipline. But it is not difficult, and does not require three years of school.

The Socratic Method – the one that was made famous by John Houseman’s Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase – is also bunk. Most professors don’t do it well. And all it amounts to is asking pointed questions and hypotheticals about something that was just read, and will soon be forgotten.

The problem with the Law School – which has almost always been ineffective at training lawyers – is that it has a built in constituency – the law professor – who is going to fight like heck to keep his or her privileged position.

Law school has been experiencing a boom in the past 4 years, as routinely happens when the economy takes a dive. That’s because rather than go out into an uncertain job market, a lot of young recent college grads (and even mid-career professionals) decide to go to school in the hopes of improving their employability. (What they’re often doing is increasing their debt load, with no reasonable hope of paying those loans back. Hence the clamoring to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy!)

But as the legal market continues to suffer, even in comparison to other parts of the economy, potential students are going to take other paths, and turn to other kinds of careers, even if those careers are less financially rewarding, because the sheer amount of money it takes to go to school for three years is too much to consider paying.

In recent conversations with fellow lawyers, I’ve heard about how even top law schools are having trouble placing their students. That puts the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, which is a good law school, but not a great law school, in a very difficult position.

If the University of Virginia (a top 10 law school) has trouble placing one-third of its student class in top law firm positions, what does that mean for the UNC-CH which is not as prestigious and also which has the unfortunate situation of being in a state with only two moderate sized legal markets (Charlotte and Raleigh) and competing with other good law schools, including Duke (although Duke tends to send students out of state) and Wake Forest, as well as Campbell (which is an underrated school that trains its graduates better than UNC) and North Carolina Central (which is the best value for a legal education in the state and trains some excellent lawyers).

There are too many UNC Chapel Hill grads in North Carolina government to ever let the law school disappear entirely, but its privileged position will start to erode. As will the privileged position of many law schools.

So what will happen to the Law School? First, the smarter school deans will give up the pretense that law school is not a trade school. They will embrace the idea that the entire curriculum should be revamped to focus on the practical skills necessary to practice law.

Next law school will need to adjust, downward, tuition to reflect the true earning potential associated with the degree, and increased competition from alternative ways of learning how to practice law, and decreased demand as people realize that being a lawyer isn’t as financially rewarding as it once was.

Finally, efforts will be launched to change the way the legal profession is regulated. Most state bars require three years of legal education. This will come under assault as more and more people realize that this requirement is absurd on its face.