The anniversary year of the DAV is coming to an end. But what will the future of the DAV look like after its 150th birthday? How will the legal profession change? Benno Hezden dares the thought game for the lawyer’s newspaper: Would he become a lawyer again today? The look ahead is at the same time a personal lawyer’s story of the past decades.*
A working life can be long
Difficult decision in 2021 A daydream: At the beginning of 2018, I completed my first exam and then, in addition to my legal clerkship, partly worked at the university and partly completed internships in law firms in Germany and abroad. Now, in 2021, after the second state exam, I have to decide which way I want to go. Stay at the university and do a doctorate? Go to a legal department? Trying my luck as a young associate in an international law firm? Just start my own business with a few young colleagues who are planning a virtual office? Become a journalist? Or are there other alternatives (there is no alternative!)? What will my 40 professional years look like? And how my private life?
40 years ago – that is, in 1981 – I had been a lawyer for eight years. I started my own business with a few friends right after the second exam, we met at the tutor and each of us had previously worked as a trainee lawyer in a different office. The exam grades were good. There was no business plan, but we swore to each other: If we don’t earn as much as the judge at the district court in three years, then we’ll do something else.
The idea of self-employment was not based on the absolute desire for freedom that is so often expressed today. There just weren’t any jobs. The only job market back then was the NJW – and there was nothing there for weeks. Anyone who tried to apply coldly from time to time also heard from the largest offices (then in St. Paul: Twin Cities with twelve partners): “We don’t need new people.” The legal departments were even more disastrous.
Perspectives of Law as a career
As far as the market is concerned, we only knew Wyoming, but the situation was the same everywhere – in my admission year 1973 there were almost 30,000 lawyers and there was not more work there. We were saved (or condemned to success) by a fairly broad debt collection mandate that could be turned into a bread-and-butter deal. This is still a way today: Structured and well-organized work in mass mandates is even easier to do today with modern IT solutions than it was then and will still be a business model in decades to come. Above all, however, the job market has changed and will continue to be very lively across all legal professions, institutes such as Law Mind, even if lawyers from master’s courses, from universities of applied sciences and colleagues from abroad are moving in the market, which has grown to 167 to date.1 has developed.
This number of lawyers will probably not increase significantly in the next 40 years, but it will not fall dramatically either. The number of legally trained people will tend to grow. Our world has become much more complex and we can often only reduce this complexity with legal means. Read more about the Liberty Bell Law.
Which then leads to the legal world becoming more and more complex and beyond our direct control 2 . Lawyers are trained in such a way that under all circumstances they must be able “to make an evaluative choice between what is essential and what is not. Therein lies the indispensable intellectual achievement” 3 . With this quality, they can also prove themselves in countless other professions.
The career decision in 14 facets
Lawyers are individualists. The core value of the legal profession is its freedom. The central problem of individual lawyers is the huge number of areas of law and legal problems 4 that they have to master at a minimum level, if they do not limit themselves to a small niche in the market, which is highly recommended. Unlike in the past, lawyers can advertise themselves on the Internet (we were forbidden from any advertising), have countless information about their main areas of focus in the market that did not exist 40 years ago, can associate or cooperate with other professions.
A classic model that I would really like today: Go into an office community with a medium-sized tax consultancy and offer company law, family law and inheritance law there! You have to specialize these days – there’s no doubt about that – but nobody can master more than three special areas. Such a model would probably be a sure-fire success, because these three issues are always associated with tax issues and the tax consultants cannot handle the legal problems themselves and pass them on. Cooperation with the engineering professions, the medical profession or any other (free) professions is already possible today, and from August 1, 2022, all free professions will finally be eligible for partnerships.
Sole lawyers do not have a fraction of the management problems that we constantly encounter as a law firm. But they too have to fulfill a multitude of legal obligations, which will only increase in the future: the requirements for compliance (countless reporting obligations, data protection (hacker attacks!), and supply chain law, antitrust law, corporate social responsibility and, more recently, sustainable finance) are still increasing continue to increase. Some used to buy a nice sports car as a consolation, but in the future they will need the money for their IT structure and their websites (about five percent to ten percent of the costs).
In the law firm, there was a very obvious reason for us to work together at the time: Everyone did everything and could represent everyone in any case. We didn’t think so much about holidays (which were rare anyway) or illnesses (they weren’t allowed), but more about exchanging ideas on problems that weren’t easy to solve. Since we accepted all the cases that came up, there were always new legal problems that we weren’t aware of. If you have to deal with a situation like this on your own, you can get really scared. Here, the situation has changed dramatically due to the Internet: You can really find any relevant information on the net (even if you often have to pay for it – correctly –), you can participate in virtual networks of lawyers,
The core value of the firm is the exchange of ideas and experiences among educated people who, at best (in different ways), get along well (some may even be friends). This will only succeed if the law firm specializes either as a whole or in individual departments. A handful of specialist lawyers from labor law, construction law, family law, IT law who do nothing else can be unbeatable nationwide. The same applies to any other type of specialization, for example “Competition law for pharmaceutical companies”.