Foreword: The Legal Profession and Social Change

March 1, 2024

Fordham University School of Law’s Stein Center for Law and Ethics has collaborated with the Fordham Law Review every year since the late 1990s to encourage, collect, and publish scholarly writings on different aspects of the legal profession, including its norms, regulation, organization, history, and development—that is, on themes relating to what law schools loosely call “legal ethics.”  The legal profession is an important subject of study for legal scholars, among others.  Although one U.S. Supreme Court Justice, himself a former law professor, airily derided legal ethics as the “least analytically rigorous . . . of law-school subjects,” we dispute this characterization and share pride in the scholarship collected over more than a quarter of a century.

Recent societal developments, including mass protests, responses to racial injustices, the growth of social movements, greater awareness about climate change, and rapid development in technology, have all had profound impact on society, including the establishment and modification of laws and regulations, the establishment of new programs and policies in the private and public sectors, changes in the use of social media, and changes in institutions and professions.

This year, the Fordham Law Review’s collection of Essays on the legal profession addresses a broad theme that encompasses these changes:  The Legal Profession and Social Change.  One might not reflexively associate the legal profession with social change given its historic conservativism, but the profession is not a monolith.  Today, there are over a million lawyers.  Different slices of the profession have different relationships to social change.  Some lawyers resist it, but others adapt to it or assist clients in adapting to it or promoting it.  Some seek to be at the vanguard of changing society for the better.  Particularly given the many ongoing changes we are experiencing and the other changes that some hope to see, one can take the theme of this collection in various directions, as its contributors do.