Chaos or Continuity? The Legal Profession: From Antiquity to the Digital Age, the Pandemic, and Beyond
The idea of individuals entering into a social contract to relinquish some of their rights in order to have a civilized society protect their fundamental rights originates at least as early as ancient Greece, where it was espoused by the philosopher Epicurus. Implicit in a social contract is the enactment of laws to achieve a democratic, civilized society and the concept of advocacy. Advocacy exists to protect an individual’s rights. The legal profession originated organically as the citizens of ancient Greece and Rome recognized the need for professional advocates. From this nascent beginning, the legal profession has evolved over centuries to adjust to cultural changes in society.
The digital age has altered cultural norms and permeated society, thereby challenging the legal profession to adapt. Technology’s tremendous impact on the legal profession appears not only in a lawyer’s daily practice but also in the development of alternative business models designed to increase access to legal services and in the clamoring for regulatory reform. No doubt, the COVID-19 Pandemic has further propelled the legal profession to innovate and embrace technology.
This Article briefly explores the development of the legal profession from its origins in ancient Greece and Rome to its reemergence in medieval England and then fast-forwards to the beginnings of the legal profession in the United States. Next, this Article explores the historical impact of technology on the legal profession and the profession’s ongoing challenge to adapt to the digital age. Finally, this Article concludes with some observations about the practice of law during the COVID-19 Pandemic and the future of the legal profession.
Jan L. Jacobowitz