Optimism About the Future of the Law Profession

law-paula-littlewood-304Paula Littlewood recently spoke on campus about the direction that the legal field is heading and the continued relevance of the J.D. degree in both the legal profession and elsewhere.

Littlewood has worked for the Washington State Bar Association since 2003 and has been working as the Executive Director since 2007. Prior to her work with the Washington State Bar, Littlewood spent time as an Assistant Dean at the University of Washington School of Law as well as working extensively in statewide political campaigns.

In her lecture, Littlewood discussed the diverse professional applicability of the J.D. degree, the shifting demographics of current legal professionals, and the various ways in which technology is changing the legal landscape. While some of the recent changes have decreased the public’s reliance on lawyers for certain legal services, Paula asserts that it continues to be an excellent time to be entering law school and pursuing a career in law.

Littlewood emphasized the relevance of the J.D. degree in professional settings outside of the law office, emphasizing the opportunities available in the business world and public policy arena for individuals with law degrees. She also addressed a misleading job placement statistic that shows that only 55% of law school graduates are working as lawyers right out of school, by drawing attention to the fact that it fails to address the graduates who take jobs in business, public policy, or legal advocacy. Littlewood asserted that because of the degree’s versatility it is still one of the best graduate degrees available.

Littlewood also discussed the aging demographics within the legal profession nationwide, including the membership of the Washington State Bar.  She noted that new young legal professionals will be needed as the current group begins to retire in greater numbers.  In addition, she said that along with the dramatic increase in lawyers reaching retirement age is the recent reduction in law school applications, which can be a potential advantage for those considering going to law school.

The shifting demographics within the legal profession currently coincide with a similar shift in accessibility and the way in which people choose to acquire legal services. While Littlewood discussed how a lot of low-level legal work is now being outsourced to foreign countries or can be done in some capacity through online service, she said there is still a large need for legal services not being met. Littlewood also talked about the increasing popularity of a universal statewide bar examination that would allow young lawyers to practice in a wide variety of states directly out of law school. In summation, Littlewood suggested that the continued and likely growing need for lawyers, and the recent innovation in the legal field have caused law school to continue to be one of the best graduate degrees available.

The LSJ program would like to thank Mrs. Littlewood for her insight into the future of the legal profession and for combating some of the current pre-conceived notions surrounding law school.

 

This article was written by Chase Beauclair