The Four Ages of the Practice of Law

The paper referred to in an earlier post here,  A Distant Mirror: How 19th Century Lawyers from Guilford and Edgecombe Counties Are Models for the Next Generation of Lawyers & Firms Worldwide, has now been made available here.

Guilford & Edgecombe Counties

Guilford & Edgecombe Counties

I suggested in that paper that the attributes of 19th Century lawyers look a lot like what will be needed by 21st Century lawyers and law firms.

Although phrased in less grandiloquent terms, the paper is premised on my sense that there are four great ages of the practice of law in North Carolina ( and America):

  1. The Age of Officers of the Court – down to 1850
  2. The Rise of the Lawyer – 1850 to 1900
  3. The Rise of the Law Firm – 20th Century
  4. The Age of the Networked Profession – 21st Century

Does it serve any useful purpose to characterize different periods in the history of the profession and give them lofty names? I think so for two reasons. First, having a mental model gives context to the past and helps to discern future directions. Second, understanding what has differed from period to period in the past helps to understand what has not changed.

Looking at that paper in retrospect, it is not focused as sharply as it might have been on those questions – but, however clumsily, it was headed there. And I had a deadline.

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