As we start a new decade, I’m struck by the many changes and trends in my chosen profession over the years.
One such change is the proliferation of mediation. Mediation is a process in a contested matter of litigation whereby a third party is used to facilitate negotiation of a settlement without trial.
Thirty plus years ago, when I started practicing law in a firm that specialized in contested civil litigation, we had never even heard of mediation. If you would have suggested that the lawyers and parties involved in a contested lawsuit should spend a day meeting with a mediator to see if they could come to an agreement, it would have been met with a cool reception indeed.
For many years, I thought mediation was for sissies. Gear up and get ready for trial. That’s what real legal warriors do.
Now, you can’t even get a trial date without being first ordered by the court to go through mediation.
And, these days, many lawyers have ceased practicing law to become full-time mediators.
As a result of this, a lot more cases are settled without trial than ever before.
Sometimes I’m not sure if this is good or bad, but it is the way it is these days.
Another change over the years: More and more and more we see lawyers advertising on TV and radio.
Almost all of this involves trolling for “serious injury cases!!!!” Why? Because the payoffs can be huge.
My opinion: if you have a serious injury case, the worst place to seek out a lawyer is a TV ad.
Not to take anything away from any lawyer, even those who advertise on TV, but as a practicing lawyer, I can tell you who the very best, most competent, most successful, most feared, most awesome injury lawyers are. And they don’t advertise on TV.
But just recently, I’ve noticed something I’ve never seen before. The Polsinelli law firm, one of Kansas City’s most hallowed and revered, with more than 900 attorneys and 20 offices nationwide, is now advertising on sports talk radio.
This would have been unheard of not so long ago. But not anymore, I suppose.
Some of the greatest shifts in legal policy come in the area of children and dissolution of marriage.
There was a time, when mothers got custody, and fathers got visitation – usually every other weekend, and sometimes one evening per week. That was fairly standard.
Some years ago, the terminology was changed to joint custody, by both mother and father, with policies that give both parents specific rights. But still, parenting time was apportioned with mothers having the children more than fathers.
In the last few years, there has been a shift in judicial thinking, with many judges now favoring a system whereby the children of divorce spend equal time with each parent, either alternating weeks, or splitting up weeks where the number of overnight stays with each parent are equal in number.
This has become the presumed starting point for joint in many quarters, in contrast to something very different just a few short years ago.
Another change of note, in my chosen profession, is a shift in the rules that apply to lawyer licensing requirements.
When I started as a lawyer, continuing education seminars were available to help lawyers keep up with changes and trends in the law. About 20 years ago, continuing education became mandatory, 15 hours a year.
Some time after that, the rule was updated to require that two of those hours of lawyer continuing education each year be directed to professionalism, ethics or malpractice prevention.
And just this year, a new rule: Missouri lawyers must now attend a minimum of one hour of educational programming each year devoted “exclusively to explicit or implicit bias, diversity, inclusion, or cultural competency,” whatever that means.
I guess I’ll find out at my annual training session this summer.
Ken Garten is a Blue Springs attorney. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.