Super Lawyers
William C. Altreuter

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lawyers enter into the discussion only glancingly in this Metafilter post about obsolete professions, but there is absolutely a sense in which our glamor profession deserves a place at the table. In the 16 years that we've had our practice we saw entire areas of law that we concentrated on eliminated with the stroke of a pen. In Australia there's a state that wiped out auto torts, and there are Canadian provinces that have done essentially the same thing. Medical malpractice was once a growth area. When I moved to Buffalo there were a half dozen firms that did little else besides represent med mal plaintiffs. I don't think there's one now-- people still do it, but since the overwhelming majority of med mal cases that go to trial end in defense verdicts (like 98%) nobody can survive just working med mal. Products liability-- an are where I have some expertise, has turned into the defense of product lines, a much more complicated area, concentrated in a handful of firms around the country.

The fact is that tort law is a very inefficient mechanism for spreading risk. I'll probably outlive the tort system, but it might come down to the wire. Of course other kinds of lawyers will endure. It is a complex world, and any time you are dealing with the government-- or anyone with greater resources than you have, really-- you'd be a chump to go in without someone who has the expertise to even the odds a bit. The profession will endure for a while yet, but it's going to look a lot different.

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