June 1, 2019 Letters
I do not wish to be known as a doomsayer. That said, we have a ticking time bomb in our profession. If we fail to recognize this and act, I fear there will be grave consequences.
The issue is student loan debt of new attorneys. It is not unusual for me to hear from new lawyers, or to read in journals, that young lawyers are graduating law school with $100,000 to $180,000 in debt.
Think about this: What would your current life be like if your net worth was negative $180,000? No one would issue you a line of credit. No one would offer you a mortgage on a modest home. Even the ubiquitous credit card companies would be reluctant to extend any credit to you. You have to have housing and food. You have to have transportation and appropriate attire. You have to pay Bar fees and for CLE seminars. Do you want a marriage and children? You cannot afford them.
Add to this a less-than-stellar job market, a glut of new attorneys, and a stagnant pay level for young attorneys just starting out.
I know there is good reason for the “Golden Rule” argument being inappropriate in a closing argument, but it is perfectly applicable here. What would you do in their shoes? How much pressure would you be under? How much stress would you be carrying in addition to the stress you are already routinely under?
I am not speaking ill of these young lawyers. The ones I have met appear to be dedicated to the profession and quite qualified.
My point is, even the most stable, professional, well-intentioned person would be under tremendous stress given this set of facts. What effect will it have on unstable, unprofessional, or ill-intentioned people?
Mindfulness, professionalism standards, strict enforcement of trust accounting, and support with opening their own offices is simply not enough. All of the efforts I see being instituted by the Bar are dealing with the symptoms, not the cause.
Ultimately, making law school reasonably priced and affordable would solve the problem. But this is of no assistance to the thousands of new lawyers joining the Bar every year, and those who have joined in the last 10 years.
One possible solution is to have The Florida Bar establish a trust that will lend money to young lawyers to pay off their debts, and to refinance their debt at more reasonable rates, and with more reasonable terms. I am not suggesting any charity. The trust will have to be funded, and anyone contributing is entitled to a rate of return. No one would be required to contribute. But, if accomplished lawyers are willing to contribute to the trust, and take a low rate of return, they will not lose any money, and they will be benefitting not just the young lawyers, not just The Florida Bar, but the citizens of Florida to whom we have pledged our trust.
Drastic times call for drastic measures. The problem is not going away; in fact, it grows each year. If my proposal will not work, what do you propose? We can complain all we want to about the current situation, but nothing will get solved by noting, complaining, and studying. This is an entrenched problem that will not solve itself.
I implore all members of The Florida Bar to take note of this problem and to work toward giving these young lawyers some relief before bad things start to happen.
The Practice of Law
For most of my 42 years of practicing civil law (probate and accident/injury) my fellow lawyers and I would say, “When it’s not fun anymore, we’ll quit. Ha Ha Ha.”
Well, the law business is now not fun and 41% of young lawyers want out of the profession. Why? Too many lawyers? The internet with its free advice and documents? So sad. My heart breaks as I write this letter.
The Florida Bar’s mantra of “diversity and inclusion” is a politically correct, white feminist call for affirmative action in favor of females and to the detriment of white males. There are almost 89,000 lawyers eligible to practice in Florida and the vast majority are Caucasian, including almost all of the 34,000 female attorneys. Females do not need affirmative action, and males should not suffer discrimination.
First, females now comprise 51% of total law school enrollment.
Second, 39% of Florida Bar members are female. However, in 2017, 49% of new Bar members were female and 51% male. Despite females being 39% of The Florida Bar membership, 47% of appointed committee members appointed by the female president of The Florida Bar for 2018-2019 are female, up from 37% in 2011-2012.
Third, of all judges in Florida, 409 of 984 (41.6%) are female, including one of seven members of the Florida Supreme Court. On the five DCAs, female appellate judges hold 16 of the 62 positions (25.8%), females hold 238 of 594 circuit judgeships (40%).
Fourth, female presidents of bar associations and bar-related organizations include the immediate past president of the ABA, the current president of The Florida Bar, the immediate past president of The Florida Bar Foundation, and five of the past 10 YLD presidents. Of the 52 members of The Florida Bar Board of Governors, 18 are female (35%).
Fifth, most of the foregoing progress of females assuming their rightful places in the judiciary and legal profession has occurred in just the past 30 years.
Sixth, according to the NALP, in 2017, 19% of equity partners and 30.7% of non-equity partners were women, and in 2018, 45.9% of associates in law firms were female.
Seventh, one of the major problems for female attorneys is that they are the primary caregivers for their children, yet most of the thousands of female attorneys have not been held back for that reason from achieving success as lawyers. It should be noted that these thousands of children were born without a nanny rule requiring a 90-day delay in a trial or other legal proceeding, if the lead attorney is to give birth. This proposed rule bespeaks of a fragility in female attorneys that does not exist.
Let us put an end to feminist tales of sexism and gender bias and the myths behind the push for the alleged need for diversity and inclusion in the legal profession in Florida.
Beverly Hills, CA
This is in response to Joshua T. Kaleel’s letter of April 30.
There shouldn’t be a problem with the judiciary interpreting the Constitution to expand people’s rights based on principles of equity and fairness.
The Supreme Court is supposed to be the ultimate interpreter of justice, so if a state law is curtailing people’s rights or a case merits it, why shouldn’t the court have the authority to overturn the state law or declare the right based on those principles?
I can’t imagine an instance where the Supreme Court should not have the authority to expand people’s rights by overturning a state law or if the case merits it based on those principles.
The history of our republic is filled with instances when the Supreme Court has stepped in to expand people’s rights when the Legislature has been unresponsive. This has been a very good thing in furtherance of the ideals of justice, liberty, and truth.