On February 28, 2023, the Marin County Bar Association held its monthly general meeting with Board member Alex Vahdat interviewing Paul Llewellyn about Paul’s new book, Unshackled: Reimagining the Practice of Law. Paul is the founding partner of Lewis & Llewellyn, a boutique litigation firm in San Francisco and he brings a unique perspective to the topic of reforming the legal profession having studied and practiced law in England before coming to the United States. Relying on that experience, Paul discussed a wide variety of ideas ranging from how law students are trained, the billable hour model, and civility amongst attorneys.

Paul discussed the lack of emphasis on practical training in legal education. Contrasted with legal education in England, it is incumbent upon law students in America to seek out their own opportunities to receive real world experience. As Paul pointed out, a lawyer can pass the bar and open their own law practice the next day without knowing anything at all about practicing law. Part of increasing lawyers’ satisfaction with their careers should include ensuring law students understand what law practice actually entails and are adequately prepared.

Paul also touched on how the billable hour can distract from providing effective service to clients. In certain circumstances, billable hours encourage lawyers to be inefficient and focus solely on their hour requirements rather than providing excellent legal work. However, since the billable hour model can be incredibly lucrative, law firms are hesitant to move away from it. Paul cited other billing methods that can be used such as fixed fees or bonuses for early case resolution.

Paul ended his discussion on the issue of civility. While law, and especially litigation, can be inherently adversarial, he argues that it is no excuse to treat opposing counsel as anything other than colleagues and peers. In fact, it can be bad for both the client, by driving up fees engaging in meaningless disputes with opposing counsel, and for the lawyer, by creating a bad reputation that can drag on future business.

The membership enjoyed the conversation and engaged with what Paul had to say. Thank you, Paul, for joining us and sharing your insights!