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Boies urges greater professionalism.

At a time when lawyers are making more money than ever, "we are starving the justice system," David Boies said at a keynote address at the recent Florida Supreme Court Historical Society Annual Dinner in Tallahassee.

While the justice system traditionally has been at the forefront of expanding the rights enumerated in our nation's founding documents to all our citizens, dangers lurk if lawyers lose sight of their professional obligations and do not make the case for adequate court funding, Boies said.

"Over the same period of time that I have seen the justice system expand civil rights, expand human rights, bring our country closer to the ideals of justice, I've also seen attacks on that justice system--some intentional and some unintentional--and some of those attacks have been in the form of economics," said Boies, who has been referred to by The New York Times as "the lawyer everyone wants."

Boies, who has served as chair of Boies, Schiller & Flexner for the last 19 years, said the justice system is at a strange point where there is a sense of having "both too much and too little." At a time when lawyers' income has never been higher, it's ironic that most states devote only about 1 percent of their budgets to the justice system, he said.

"When the Constitution was written, it begins 'We the People of the United States' and the we in 'We the People' at that time meant primarily white male, protestant, property owners," Boies said. "What you have seen over the past 200 years is the expansion of the circle of who 'We the People' represents and that expansion has been led by our justice system and our justice system requiring itself to mete out justice more equally, but also requiring our society to treat more people with dignity."

But the justice system that has served the nation so well is not something that can be taken for granted, and attorneys have an obligation to advocate for its well-being, he said.

Over the course of his career, Boies said the practice of law has moved from being a profession to where too often lawyers think of it as a business, and while there is "nothing illegal or immoral" about the market economy, that type of thinking "puts enormous pressure on the legal profession not to do what professions do."

Too often, he said, there are pressures on firms to compete in terms of how much money they are going to pay new associates, how much they are going to pay their partners, where they stand in the American Lawyers rankings.

When he entered the profession in the 1960s, the partners Boies worked for made "a lot less money than we do now and they were perfectly happy with how much they made and they had great lives."

Boies said their kids went to good schools, they drove nice cars, and they had nice houses.

"They had everything they needed economically and had the satisfaction of doing something they thought was important to their communities, themselves, and to the kind of society they wanted to live in and bequeath to their children and grandchildren," he said.

Today, Boies said, the profession risks losing that.

"Lawyers are not happier today than they were 50 years ago," Boies said. "I see it in my partners and I see it in young associates. The quality of life that has been given up is something that each of us in the profession needs to be conscious of, and we need to work together to try to bring back as much of the element of public service and a dedication to the profession and the cause of justice that we can."

People don't go to law school primarily because they think it is the easiest way to make money; they go because they are interested in the law and justice, he said. But once young lawyers enter the profession, they soon get married, have children, and begin to focus on personal economics and not on the profession.

"It is a natural tendency that can only be dealt with if the leaders of the profession--the people who have been through it and are now the managing and senior partners--are willing to try not only to mentor, but to structure the practice of law, structure the law firms, in a way that enables young lawyers to partake in what many of us had the privilege of doing in term of public service and service to the profession."

Boies said people are happy when they make money, but there is a point of diminishing returns in making money.

"When I got out of law school, the average lawyer made about half of what the average doctor made," Boies said. "Today the average lawyer makes twice to three times what the average doctor makes."

In Florida, the state court system runs on only 7 tenths of one percent of the state budget and nationally the average is about 1 percent, he said.

"Think of what a small fraction of state revenues are devoted to a co-equal branch of government and one that serves the people all the time," said Boies, adding that even if a small amount more was devoted to the courts it would make a tremendous difference.

He said while Florida is not as bad off as others; there are states where lawyers can't get a court order unless they bring their own paper.

Boies said while there are many special interests that lobby the country's legislatures, the legal profession's special interest is justice, and if lawyers are not out "advocating and organizing" for adequate court funding, "nobody else it going to have the incentive, the knowledge, or the desire" to do so.

"We have to make sure we don't let the system deteriorate."

By Mark D. Killian

Managing Editor

Caption: BOIES
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Author:Killian, Mark D.
Publication:Florida Bar News
Date:Mar 1, 2016
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