By: William J. Lundregan III, Esq.
In my time practicing law, the landscape of the practice has changed in regard to both attorneys and their clients. Attorneys and clients can communicate instantaneously now with the surge of technology, many more lawyers are specializing in probate and estate planning, and women have entered the field at a remarkable rate. One thing that has not changed is my belief that everyone should go to law school. Everything we do is touched by the law in some way. Because of that, it is important that people know the law so they have a better understanding of the rules we all must live by.
When I first started practicing law over 50 years ago, the profession was much different than it is now. Specific to our current practice, when I started there were only two lawyers dedicated to probate in Salem. Now, the number is probably well near one hundred. That was because your average middle-class person or family really had no need for a lawyer. It was virtually only the wealthiest segment of society which needed an estate plan or had a need for a lawyer at all. The economic expansion that happened after the Second World War created wealth for a lot of families and the ability to invest in the stock market, and so now, generations later, you see a much greater need for the protection of that accumulated wealth after death.
Because the law practice was so small when I started, the nature of the practice was much tighter knit. You knew the attorneys on the other side; you knew the judges. This also meant that law firms were kept afloat by word of mouth; that was the only way to get business! Today, it is social media that keeps firms alive. I will say this: beware of finding a firm through social media; the opinions of your peers and word of mouth holds much more weight than social media ever will. The practice has become much more impersonal because of this. You can conduct a whole case without meeting the other attorney face-to-face. The practice of law could really benefit from restoring this personal connection and not relying so heavily on electronic communication.
Society has changed a lot in the last several decades. We now live in a much more litigious society. You can’t even buy a car now without a contract! There is both a greater need for lawyers, and a greater propensity to seek out cases where there may not have been one before. Almost everyone will need to consult an attorney at some point in their lives, especially when it comes to estate planning. Even people with modest means, or young people, could benefit from having an estate plan. Because of this, it is important for everyone to understand the law. I really believe everyone could benefit from going to law school to truly gain an appreciation for the rules by which our society is governed, but also understand the reasoning behind them. In the meantime, make sure you put thought into who you entrust with the drafting of your estate plan. Our office has three generations of experience in drafting comprehensive and customized estate plans for our clients. We can help you create an estate plan that meets your individual needs.