Ben F. Johnson III is running a very large, very rich firm that likely will get even larger and richer. Despite that, he thinks that the practice of law — even at a big corporate firm like his own — can and should still be a profession, not a business.

At 62, Johnson, now in his tenth year as managing partner of Alston & Bird, has become the dean of Atlanta’s big firms thanks to a recent influx of mid-40-ish managing partners at the city’s rivals.