Today’s legal profession faces a number of challenges, including a smaller job market and fewer law school applicants. But University of Tennessee College of Law Professor Benjamin Barton argues that these struggles may transform the practice of law and benefit American consumers.
Barton explains his prediction in a new book, “Glass Half Full: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession,” published this month by Oxford University Press. “It is true that the legal profession and law schools are in for tough sledding for the next few years, but there is a significant upside to these changes,” Barton said.
He argues, for example, that soon lawyers may earn lower incomes but devote their time to more fulfilling work and become more efficient in how they use their time.
“America is a country founded on the rule of law, yet we have suffered through an access-to-justice problem for years,” he said. “What seems like a crisis to lawyers is a boon to ordinary Americans who have not been able to afford needed legal services. Consumers of legal services will have more choice, at lower prices, than ever before.”
Barton is the Helen and Charles Lockett Distinguished Professor of Law at UT Law, where he has served on the faculty since 2001 and as director of clinical programs from 2007 to 2011. He is also a Fulbright Scholar and spent the past year teaching comparative law at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia.
He is author of the book “The Lawyer–Judge Bias in the American Courts,” published in 2011 by Cambridge University Press, the oldest university press in the world. His articles have been published in the International Journal of Law and Economics, the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, and the law reviews of the universities of Toronto, Pennsylvania, Michigan and California.