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Profit and the Practice of Law: What's Happened to the Legal Profession Hardcover – June, 1997

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Editorial Reviews


"What makes this book a must-read is Mike's keen perception of the current status of the profession and its attendant problems, as well as what may lie ahead for it without the changes he advocates. . . . All who value the profession would do well to study this book."
-The Honorable Griffin B. Bell Former Attorney General of the United States, Judge, United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Partner, King & Spalding

"Michael Trotter's book Profit and the Practice of Law is a very important book and should be widely read. It is extremely entertaining and readable and the more compelling for that. It should be read by American lawyers because it articulates what many are prepared to say privately about private law practice . . . . The Book should be read with great care in Europe . . . . It should be read and talked about by lawyers throughout the United States and abroad - 'private practice reform thyself."
-His Honor Judge John Toulmin CMG QC FKC, Past President of the European Bar Council (CCBE), and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the European Law Academy (ERA) 1997-2010, now Honorary Chairman for Life

"This book is both enjoyable and insightful. Michael Trotter can not only write well, but he has something to say. Thought and reflection are provoked on every page. Journalists, consultants, and numerous other outsiders have had a lot to say about law firms and law firm management. At last an insider, a reflective practitioner, gives us the inside view."
-David H. Maister Author of Managing the Professional Service Firm and True Professionalism, and a leading professional service firm consultant

"Mike Trotter has captured the essence of the evolution of major law firms in Atlanta (and around the country) from relatively small firms of lawyers who took professional pride in the quality of their work and in their roles as community leaders, to the very large law firms of today in which 'rainmakers' leverage the billable hours of associates to generate much larger profits than were ever dreamed of by their predecessors. In the process he very accurately describes the stress, fears, frustrations and ultimate dissatisfaction of many of the lawyers practicing in this system, as well as the rise of in-house law departments, all with a generous serving of historical facts related not only to law firm economics, but to the lifestyles of lawyers."
-Robert S. Harkey Retired Senior Vice President - General Counsel and Secretary Delta Air Lines, Inc.

"I think your book is the best analysis of what I know of the state of legal practice today and how it came about, and I am sending copies to everyone I think should read it."
-Louis J. Hector Former Senior Partner Steel Hector & Davis Miami, Florida

"I just finished your book, and I couldn't wait to tell you what a masterful job you've done. I rarely use the word "brilliant". . . but I can't think of a better way to describe your outstanding combination of scholarship and insight. Based on my own experience, I agree with every single one of your points. . . . What impressed me most was that, while I wasn't at all surprised by any of the factual data, I found the conclusions you drew from them nothing short of astounding. You have literally provided me with a structure for what were, until now, my noncohesive attitudes and beliefs about our profession and my own career."
-Jerold Zieselman Retired Partner Proskauer Rose LLP New York

"I have read your book from cover to cover, and found it engrossing. Your book chronicles graphically the transition from law partnership to 'big law service business' that has occurred in many firms that I know. It is a Must Read for lawyers in big firms and firms that want to become big firms, and, of course, in-house general counsels interested in obtaining quality legal services at reasonable cost. I would be surprised if the book is not required reading soon for first year law students across the country."
-John H. Cutler Retired Partner Heller Ehrman San Francisco

"Profit and the Practice of Law makes a strong contribution to the literature on contemporary law practice and, as a kind of autobiography, to our understanding of the history of the bar since World War II. . . . What I like most about this manuscript is the sure touch that the author has for his subject. He knows the practice of law, the world of Atlanta's business community, and the ways in which major business law firms operate. He also has a fine sense of the relationship of legal education to the major firms, the role played by the cost allocation and profit-center models that propel most firms, the impact of technology and 'economic opportunity' on the shape of the firms, and the impact of 'modern' legal accounting practices on the ways in which lawyers charge for their services and relate to one another. Indeed, in this regard, the book is something of a triumph."
-Kermit L. Hall Former Dean and Professor of History and Law College of Humanities Ohio State University

"I am writing to let you know what great pleasure I derive from knowing that I will be able to return home at the end of the day and read another dozen pages of your . . . book. It's GREAT! I find it so intellectually keen and revealing on a subject I thought I knew all about that I have been motivated to let you know. I have taught a course at Nova Law Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for almost 30 years in the history of the American legal profession and yet never managed to learn anything interesting about the transformation of not just the large, business firm but, really, the way the whole idea of being a lawyer is different now than it was back when I decided to go to law school."
-Anthony Chase Author of Law and History: The Evolution of the American Legal System

"Mike Trotter deftly combines scholarship, legal analysis and serious journalism to provide a candid and lively insider's view of how the law business has evolved over the past several decades. I learned a great deal from this revealing book and highly recommend it to anyone interested in the economics and mores of law firms and lawyers."
-Paul M. Barrett Assistant Managing Editor Bloomberg Businessweek, and author of GLOCK: The Rise of America's Gun --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Michael H. Trotter received his law degree from the Harvard Law School in 1962, and his B.A. degree from Brown University cum laude (Phi Beta Kappa) in 1958. Prior to attending law school he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in the Harvard University Ph.D. Program in American History and was awarded a Master's Degree in History in 1959. Mr. Trotter's studies of law firm growth and change have combined the perspectives of a successful practicing attorney, an experienced law firm manager and a historian. As a partner in two of the largest and most successful firms in America (the predecessors of Alston & Bird and of Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton) and three entrepreneurial law firms, he has been a keen student of the economics and ethos of modern law practice. Mr. Trotter has written and spoken frequently on law firm management, operations and economics and the cost-effective delivery of legal services. He has also been a columnist for Atlanta's legal newspaper, "The Daily Report," and he is the author of "Pig in a Poke? The Uncertain Advantages of Very Large and Highly Leveraged Law Firms in America," which appeared as a chapter in the American Bar Association's publication, "Raise the Bar - Real World Solutions for a Troubled Profession" (2007). His courses in law firm management and economics at the Emory University School of Law in the early 1990s may have been the first, and were certainly among the first, to be taught at a major American law school. He is a partner in the "New Model" law firm of Taylor English Duma LLP. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press (June 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820318752
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820318752
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,070,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael H. Trotter is the author of "Declining Prospects - How Extraordinary Competition and Compensation Are Changing America's Major Law Firms," (CreateSpace, 2012), and of "Profit and the Practice of Law - What's Happened to the Legal Profession," (University of Georgia Press, 1997; reprint, Create Space, 2012), which has become the definitive work on growth and change in the legal profession in America from 1960 to 1995. Articles featuring "Declining Prospects" have appeared in "BusinessWeek," the "New York Times," the "Law Society Gazette," and "Managing Partner" magazine, among others, which can be accessed through his website:

He is also the author of "Pig in a Poke? The Uncertain Advantages of Very Large and Highly Leveraged Law Firms in America" which appears as the second chapter in "Rise the Bar - Real World Solutions for a Troubled Profession," (American Bar Association Press, 2007), and of more than 30 articles and columns on law firm management and related issues in various publications including the "American Bar Association Journal," "The National Law Journal," "The Daily Report," and the "Journal of Southern Legal History." In the early 1990s he taught courses at the Emory University School of Law in law firm economics and management (which apparently were the first such courses taught at a major law school) as well as courses in securities regulation.

Mr. Trotter began his legal career in the summer of 1960 working as a "summer boarder" (following his first year at the Harvard Law School) with the Atlanta law firm of Alston, Sibley, Miller, Spann & Shackelford, a firm of 15 lawyers and the predecessor of Alston & Bird, now the 43rd ranked firm in the Am Law 100 with over 800 lawyers and $644,500,000 of gross revenue. Following his graduation from law school in 1962 he joined the Alston firm as an associate and became a partner in 1967. Prior to attending law school Mr. Trotter graduated from Brown University in 1958 with Distinction in History, cum laude (Phi Beta Kappa) and then attended the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow in the Ph.D. program in American History. After completing his Master's Degree he transferred to the law school.

During his fifteen years at the Alston Firm he specialized in corporate and securities law and served at various times as chair of the firm's recruiting and its facilities committees and of its Corporate Practice Group. He also served as a member of its Long Term Planning Committee. During this time he became the lawyer principally responsible for the firm's second largest client, the 5th largest real estate investment trust in the United States, and a Trustee of the Trust. The mid-1970's recession imperiled the Trust financially and the Trust discovered that it had substantial claims against its manager, the then largest bank in the Southeastern United States and his firm's largest client. As a result, he had either to withdraw from the firm or from the Trust. His colleagues on the Trust's Board made it clear that they expected him to remain with the Trust and to support its efforts at recovery; the firm on the other hand was unhappy that he had ended up on the "wrong side" of a significant argument with its most important client although the Trust ultimately prevailed in the dispute.

As a result he took the lead in organizing a new law firm, Trotter, Bondurant, Griffin, Miller & Hishon which was recognized by "The American Lawyer" as one of "20 Great New Firms" in its April 1982 edition. Differences among the partners lead him to organize another firm, Trotter Smith & Jacobs that became a firm of approximately 70 lawyers before it succumbed in the early 1990's recession to the bankruptcy of its two largest clients. He then became a partner in Kilpatrick & Cody, the predecessor firm of today's Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton. He retired from the Kilpatrick firm in 2005. In 2009 Taylor English Duma LLP, a "New Model" law firm offered him the opportunity to serve as both a part time practicing lawyer and a law firm management consultant to the firm where he practices law today. He participated in the ABA's "Second Seize the Future" conference in 1999 and its "Raise the Bar" project in 2005. As a result of these varying experiences he has had first-hand experience with many of the challenges of law firm management, operations and economics.

Mr. Trotter has worked on legal projects with many of the nation's leading law firms including Blank Rome; Cahill Gordon; Cleary Gottlieb; Cravath; Davis Polk; Fulbright & Jaworski; Gibson Dunn; King & Spalding; Piper & Marbury; Schulte Roth; Shearman & Sterling; Simpson Thacher; Skadden Arps; Sullivan & Cromwell; Sutherland Asbill; Weil Gotshal; and Wilmer, among others.

He has also been active in civic affairs in Atlanta and in Georgia. He received the "Distinguished Services Award" of the Atlanta Business League in 1986 for his contributions to racial relations in Atlanta, and in 2001 he received the first "Igniting a Passion for Justice" Award of the Southern Regional Council. Mr. Trotter served as Chair of the Agenda Committee and as Co-Secretary of the Atlanta Action Forum, a bi-racial group of Atlanta's business leaders that worked for more than thirty years to guide Atlanta's development as one of America's largest and most progressive urban areas. He was also a principal founder of Good Government Atlanta, Research Atlanta, and the Atlanta Committee for Public Education, and has served as a director of several other civic or social service agencies. He also served as a member of the City of Atlanta's Urban Design Commission, as a Staff Attorney for the Atlanta Commission on Crime & Juvenile Delinquency, and on the Advisory Board to the Clark/Atlanta University Business School.

He was active in Jimmy Carter's successful campaign to become Governor of Georgia and in numerous campaigns for other local and state offices. He served as a member of the Georgia State Planning and Community Affairs Policy Board. He was also a member of the Special Committee appointed by the Federal District Court in the early 1970s to advise the Atlanta School System on the creation and operation of a unitary school system, and was Chair of a Special Committee of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce that studied and reported on the financial condition and prospects of the Atlanta Public Schools in 1992 that led to major and continuing efforts to improve the performance of the Atlanta schools over the subsequent 20 years.

Mr. Trotter served as a Trustee of Brown University and for many years as a member of the Student Life and of the Minority Affairs Committees of the Brown Corporation.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Julian P Killingley on August 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Many commentators have noted a sea change in the standards and practices of the legal profession over the last thirty years. There is, of course, a temptation for us all to hark back to an imagined golden age when we were young. However, there is widespread agreement among commentators on legal ethics that there has been a paradigm shift in the way lawyers see their job. This is usually explained as a metamorphosis of lawyers from legal professionals into legal businessmen.
Many authors have commented on this but few are as well placed to do so as Michael Trotter. He has served a working lifetime in an major Atlanta commercial law firm. He offers detailed chapter and verse for the suspicions that many of us intuitively felt but could not pin down. Trotter is unusual in that he has taken time out from the drudgery of racking up billable hours to reflect on what is happening to the legal profession and what that means for the profession and society.
For a man who has spent most of his life in the minutiae of clients' affairs, he has remarkable detachment and insight. I don't propose to lay out his thesis in depth but simply say that I found his comments profoundly perceptive and disturbing. Everything that he says about the changes in the practice of law in the United States, we too have seen in Britain. Again, the negative consequences of the transition of law firms from groupings of men of affairs and pillars of the community into legal technicians and businessmen, we have also seen in Britain.
Trotter explains how the single-minded pursuit of profit has a tremendous knock on effect. It reaches deep into the ways in which law is practiced and the way the public perceives the profession. The consequences are not just cosmetic but have profound consequences for access to justice, maintenance of professional standards, and the self-esteem of lawyers.
This book is strongly commended to all lawyers and is readily accessible to the lay reader.
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