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Sustainable Development Goal 16 ("SDG 16"):  

Statement that SDG 16 is an “enabling goal”:  

Large law firms play a central role in global pro bono engagement:

  • "Large firms play a central role in the pro bono system because of their high volume of contributions, both in aggregate terms and relative to other sectors of the profession.  Large firms also play a leadership role within the pro bono field, and generally have the most developed organizational structures.  Because these firms have the greatest capacity to invest in professional staff, they also are the most accessible sources of systematic data on the institutionalization of pro bono efforts."  Scott L. Cummings; Deborah L. Rhode, Managing Pro Bono: Doing Well by Doing Better, 78 Fordham L. Rev. 2357, 2359-60 (2010) (internal footnotes omitted).

The commercial focus of the legal profession is driven by the imperative to turn a profit:

  • "Yet the assimilation of pro bono to large-firm goals may also transform its meaning and redirect its purposes. Law firms are, in the end, businesses. And although they are businesses with a professional mandate to give back, the organizational imperative to turn a profit inevitably shapes both the amount and nature of public service. Unpaid work serves pragmatic as well as altruistic objectives. It can enhance firms' recruitment, retention, rankings, and reputation, while offering individual lawyers crucial training and career development opportunities."  Scott L. Cummings; Deborah L. Rhode, Managing Pro Bono: Doing Well by Doing Better, 78 Fordham L. Rev. 2357, 2361 (2010).

Law firm identity limits lawyers' autonomy in pro bono project selection:

  • "Only firms outspoken in their commitment to thin positional identity would present an atmosphere congenial to true autonomy in a lawyer's selection of pro bono projects. The net result for the majority of firms is that where a positional conflict is perceived any lawyer in the firm, regardless of his or her area of practice, may be precluded from taking on a pro bono representation.  Firms with thick positional identities tend to have a broader view of what amounts to a positional conflict.  Firms with thin positional identities tend to have a narrower view."  Spaulding, Norman W., The Prophet and the Bureaucrat:  Positional Conflicts in Service Pro Bono Publico, 50 Stan. L. Rev. 1395, 1418 (1998).

Reference above to Anthony Kronman’s The Lost Lawyer (1993):

  •  See p. 295.

There is a fundamental paradox in lawyers' role as public professionals "above the market":

  • "This public cynicism reflects a fundamental paradox at the heart of the legal profession. The very notion that lawyers are members of a 'profession' suggests a delicate balance of incentives and duties that pull in different directions.  In the United States (as in most countries), lawyers are freely engaged in the commercial enterprise of rendering services for a fee.  They are permitted – and indeed encouraged – to make money, often lots of it, within the boundaries of broad rules, such as those limiting overly aggressive (or misleading) solicitation and advertising.  As professionals, they are accorded wide discretion to define their own standards for admission and rules of conduct in order to promote craft expertise and quality service. In exchange for this privilege, lawyers are expected to embrace a set of public values – a code of “professionalism” defined by a commitment to competence, independence, and public service – distinguishing them from “mere” commercial actors. They are asked, in short, to be 'public citizens' with a special obligation to promote the 'administration of justice.'  This dual status – in the market, but above it; diligent servants of clients, but also special guardians of the 'public interest' – raises our expectations of lawyer conduct. And it inevitably causes disappointment when our expectations are not met."  Scott L. Cummings, What Good Are Lawyers?, in The Paradox Of Professionalism: Lawyers and the Possibility of Justice (2011), p. 1-2.

Quotation from OECD (appears in multiple locations, including at the following link):

References to substance abuse and the recognition of an ongoing "crisis" in the legal profession:

  • "The current Crisis is unique in several respects, however, and these suggest that it might be The Big One.  First of all, the present Crisis does not seem to arise from an obvious cause, such as legal events surrounding Prohibition or the Great Depression.  Rather, the widespread perception is that it marks a more diffuse erosion of values - from 'professionalism' to 'commercialism,' in the most often-used diagnosis. Second, and more importantly, the present Crisis, unlike its predecessors, has been accompanied by a wholesale public loss of approval of lawyers, as confirmed by polling data as well as the current litany of lawyer-bashing."  David Luban and Michael Millemann, Good Judgment: Ethics Teaching in Dark Times, 9 Geo. J. Legal Ethics 31, 32 (1995).

  • "The legal profession is in the midst of a 'crisis of professionalism' and has been for some time.  Bar leaders, legal practitioners, and scholars have put forward various arguments as to how the profession got itself into such a mess and why the crisis persists.  Criticisms vary and include the widespread lack of morality among lawyers, bad reputation of attorneys, types of personalities attracted to the law, need to amend the ethical rules and standards that currently govern the behavior of lawyers, failure of law schools to instill the proper values in their graduates, and more."  Bartlett, Lauren, A Human Rights Code of Conduct: Ambitious Moral Aspiration for a Public Interest Law Office or Law Clinic,  91 St. John’s L. Rev. 559, 563-64 (2017) (internal footnotes omitted).

  • "The churning sensation arises because of the cyclical nature of the professionalism crisis and response process: the perceived crisis leads to regulatory responses, the responses fail to address the crisis, and the cycle begins again with a renewed sense of frustration and concern. This frustration and concern will likely continue unabated because the latest reforms look an awful lot like what already has been tried to little effect. These responses include more attention to professionalism in law schools, more voluntary and mandatory professionalism continuing legal education (“CLE”) courses, more stringent character and fitness reviews for bar admissions, more civility and professionalism creeds/standards, and more public relations work. The mandatory rules side of the project includes similar rehashes: more tinkering with the Rules, more 'ethics hotlines' to make compliance easier for lawyers, and more Lawyer Assistance Programs to deal with lawyer addiction problems."  Benjamin H. Barton, The ABA, the Rules, and Professionalism: The Mechanics of Self-Defeat and a Call for a Return to the Ethical, Moral, and Practical Approach of the Canons, 83 N.C. L. Rev. 411, 416-18 (2005) (internal footnotes omitted).

  • "The decline in psychological well-being experienced by new law students is both disconcerting and destructive because depression can lead to suicide, drug abuse, and other quality-of-life problems, in addition to cloudy thinking, lower grades, and reduced professional opportunities.  But research suggests that as law students finish law school, graduate, and move into practice, their levels of well-being do not improve.  Instead, lawyers as a group exhibit alarming rates of depression, alcoholism, drug dependence, and suicidality."  Peter H. Huang; Corie Rosen Felder, The Zombie Lawyer Apocalypse, 42 Pepp. L. Rev. 727, 731 (2015). 

  • "If we are to stem the tide of law student and lawyer depression and emerge as victors in the battle of the Zombie Lawyer Apocalypse, we must take these words to heart and begin to change the way we engage with one another and with our institutions. We must move away from a culture of dehumanizing competition and away from the notion that the legal discipline is a purely instrumental one, devoid of human emotion, engagement, and ideas. Instead, we must embrace the tenets of mindfulness, ethical decisionmaking, and positive psychology in order to build a profession and professional education system that encourages individuals and organizations to flourish."  Peter H. Huang; Corie Rosen Felder, The Zombie Lawyer Apocalypse, 42 Pepp. L. Rev. 727, 771 (2015).

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