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Building A Better Legal Profession

Publication Date: 
December 05, 2008
Source: 
San Francisco Attorney
Author: 
Nina Schuyler

The student organization Building a Better Legal Profession is featured, and Professors Michelle Landis Dauber and Deborah Rhode, student Davida Brook, and alumnus Andrew Canter are quoted in the cover story for the Winter 2008 issue of San Francisco Attorney magazine:

Can we talk in five minutes?” says Andrew Canter in a rushed voice. Exactly five minutes later, the phone rings. “I had to finish my presentation to students at the UT [University of Texas] at Austin School of Law,” he says on his cell phone.

Tomorrow, he’s off to Vanderbilt University Law School. Then next week, Harvard Law School and Yale Law School. In fact, this fall he and a team of Stanford Law School students traveled to the top twenty to thirty law schools in the country, spreading the word about their organization, Building a Better Legal Profession, or BBLP, founded in 2007 by Stanford Law School students. Its purpose, as its name suggests, is to ensure that the practice of law does not mean giving up “a commitment to family, community, and dedicated service to client.”

Canter, one of the original founders and a former copresident, says today’s attendance at his forty-five-minute presentation was “good.” The day prior, forty-five Emory Law School students showed up; at Indiana Law, he had eightyfive. “There is a sense among students that things have pitched too far in one direction,” he says. “I’ve been very pleased at how well this organization has been received.”

As he should be. This year, the group launched a new Web site, www.betterlegalprofession.org, with a wealth of information for law school students; appointed a new president, Davida Brook; signed a book deal with Kaplan Publishing; launched a blog for LexisNexis; and joined forces with the well-established Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) to bring its message to law firms around the country. By the end of October, BBLP had chapters at the top twenty law schools. It’s also being noticed by firms.

“The group has really grabbed the attention of many law firms recruiting at prominent law schools,” says Deborah Rhode, a law professor at Stanford and in September named director of the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession. Rhode was one of the nonprofit BBLP’s first donors. The group’s message captures what polls show, she adds. The vast majority of new lawyers, both men and women, want a better family-work balance.

Michele Landis Dauber, professor of law and (by courtesy) sociology at Stanford and BBLP’s faculty advisor, says that for students interested in work-life balance, “the proportion of female equity partners is the best available proxy. This group is extremely focused on promoting racial, gender, and sexual orientation equity in large firms. Students want to see a botom-line, demonstrable commitment to equality.”