Letter from ABA President Patricia Lee Refo

ABA President, Patricia Refo

ABA President, Patricia Lee Refo

Baseball is big in Arizona. The Diamondbacks play in downtown Phoenix, three blocks from my office. And 15 major league teams hold spring training here, mostly in and around Phoenix.

So when MLB canceled spring training on March 12, 2020, that’s when the pandemic became real. My law firm, Snell & Wilmer, sent everyone home that week. The whole firm moved off-site in 48 hours. We thought we’d be back in a few weeks. Little did we know.

And now, here we are, nearly a year and a half later. The D-Backs have returned to Chase Field, but many law firms are still working from home. My firm is slowly trickling back to the office. Many firms are still unsure when they’ll return, if ever.

The pandemic hit the legal profession in many ways. How hard? The answer is right here, in the 2021 ABA Profile of the Legal Profession. Chapter 1 details how COVID-19 affected lawyers – senior lawyers, solo lawyers, big-firm lawyers, female lawyers, lawyers of color. Did you know one-third of older lawyers changed their retirement plans because of the pandemic? That’s just one of many interesting findings in the Profile report. Here are others:

  Arizona has 15,000 lawyers… but fewer lawyers per capita than all but three states.

  Law school demographics have changed so much in recent years that there are now 25 schools where enrollment is at least 60% female… but no school where enrollment is as high as 60% male.

  The highest demand for lawyers in the country is in Washington, D.C., followed closely by… Tallahassee, Florida. That may seem unlikely, but it’s true. (New York City is a surprising No. 5.)

There is a lot more to learn in this fascinating report, now in its third year. Anyone interested in learning more about the profession’s past – and its future – can find it in the ABA Profile of the Legal Profession.

Go Diamondbacks!

Patricia Lee Refo
President, American Bar Association
July 2021