Law Professor Ben Barton’s new book, Glass Half Full: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession, was published recently by Oxford University Press. In his book, Barton looks at recent dramatic changes in the legal profession. Since the Great Recession, the number of legal jobs has dropped considerably. As college students became aware of this new reality, the number of law school applicants decreased sharply and has continued to fall. In addition, new technologies have rendered some legal services obsolete, and new regulations have often had the same effect.
Rather than taking a pessimistic view of these trends, Barton sees reasons to believe that the legal profession can be saved. He suggests that creativity and business sense on the part of lawyers can reformulate the profession and what it means to be a modern lawyer. Lawyers will earn lower incomes but will devote their time to more fulfilling work. They will become more efficient in how they use their time. The profession will emerge from the current crisis healthier than it was and will be better able to benefit its clients and society more broadly.
The new book is part of Barton’s ongoing look at the legal profession and its recent evolution. His 2010 book, The Lawyer-Judge Bias in the American Legal System, published by Cambridge University Press, examined the problems caused by the fact that most American judges are also lawyers. As a result, they are inherently biased toward other lawyers in areas ranging from legal ethics to the business of law.
In connection with the publication of his new book, Barton has written an article, “The Upside of the Legal Profession’s Crisis,” which recently appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education.