July 6, 2015

CT legal industry faces evolving landscape

Q&A talks with William Clendenen, the new president of the Connecticut Bar Association.

Q: From your perspective as the new president of the Connecticut Bar Association, how is the overall health of Connecticut's legal industry? Is any one segment doing better than the other?

A: The legal profession is strong in this state, after weathering one of the worst recessions in decades. While there have been challenges confronting the practice of law in Connecticut, we have clearly turned the corner. Hiring of new lawyers has increased, and many law firms are projecting strong future growth.

Q: What is the state of law schools in Connecticut? Does our state follow what seems to be the national trend of too many graduates and too few jobs? Is a Juris Doctorate still a good degree to pursue?

A: Connecticut has outstanding law schools. Unfortunately, our schools have followed the nationwide trend of declining enrollments as they respond to adjustments in the job market. While there has been a shift in legal recruitment at large firms, there are opportunities in medium and small firms, solo practices, nonprofits, government, business and clerkships.

The CBA has responded to this shift. Today's law students are more proactive in capitalizing on networking, professional development programming and practical training. We work with law schools to develop future attorneys and cultivate up-and-coming leaders in the law.

Among the ways we help give them a head start on success is by offering free membership to law students and newly admitted attorneys.

We also have a mentoring program and offer complimentary membership in our young lawyers section, our largest and most vibrant group.

These opportunities foster key relationships to build professional networks and offer the tools to become a successful practitioner.

Q: Where is the future growth in the legal profession?

A: We believe there will be an increase in the use of very specifically trained attorneys who will staff firms on a per-job basis for as long as the case or cases are ongoing. This will enable firms to deliver services to corporations at a lower fixed rate.

Q: According to Bureau of Labor statistics, the legal profession lags behind others in terms of racial diversity. What is the CBA doing to make the profession in Connecticut more diverse?

A: The leaders of Connecticut's legal community understand the value of diversity and the importance of having our profession reflect the people it serves. We are working together with other legal associations to take proactive steps to become inclusive as a community.

Most recently, the CBA has enacted a new diversity policy, featured one of the most diverse slates of annual award recipients in the history of the organization, and elected a future president who understands the struggles of diverse attorneys.

We are a richer and more effective association because of diversity. Through increased diversity, our organization can more effectively address member and societal needs with the varied perspectives, experiences, knowledge, information and understanding inherent in a diverse relationship.

Q: How is the CBA doing as an organization? What challenges does the group face in the short term?

A: We have a strong, involved membership and are proud to be the largest legal community in the state. Like all membership organizations, our challenge is to continually demonstrate our value. With a healthy, growing membership of nearly 10,000 legal professionals, the CBA will progress with the profession and continue to be a prominent resource for our members.n

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