The legal press and blogs lit up this week when Dentons decided not to report profits per equity partner to the American Lawyer.  The PEP discussion I leave to others. I found more interesting a reason Dentons gives:

“a focus on profit undermines the differences between the practice of law being a profession rather than solely a business.” (emphasis added; source here.)

Lawyers and firms cite “profession” and “professionalism” for many actions. Many uses are fine but I fear some serve as an excuse to continue bad habits.  I offer here two examples.

First, numerous ethical regulations to ‘protect the profession’ seem to protect lawyers.  A recent Texas ethics ruling bans the use of certain titles, CTO, among them. It reflects grave misunderstandings of what managers do and what clients think. Such nonsense propagated to ‘protect the profession’ only diminishes lawyers and the bar in the eyes of the real world.

Second, lawyers use ‘professionalism’ to practice however they wish. The artisinal approach of many lawyers makes no sense. “Professionalism” (and fear of change) serves as an excuse to avoid improving processes, using legal technology appropriate, and adopting legal project management. In my view, a true professional eagerly does all three to improve client service. Anyone who thinks serving clients better is not a core pillar of professionalism, let me know.

I support “professionalism” but when the professionals keep a lock on defining what it means and using it as an excuse, we are all worse off.