Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1999

Abstract

Lawyers are said to travel in packs, or at least pairs, and in the popular parlance are often compared to hoards of locusts, herds of cattle, or unruly mobs. However, at least for purposes of assessing concerns with professionalism currently surrounding the bar and the public, whether attorneys are more or less social than other human animals does not matter. My point is simply that lawyers are social beings; like other human beings in social and occupational groups, lawyers behave largely in accordance with group norms, in much the same way peer pressure led Julian English toward juvenile delinquency in the passage quoted above from O'Hara's novel.

My operating premise simply posits that lawyers will tend to act in accordance with their social or peer incentive structures. The resulting thesis holds that society will see better conduct by lawyers, in the legal profession and as a whole, if attorneys continue to be regarded and regulated as part of a profession rather than being primarily conceptualized as actors in a market.

Lawyers and the legal profession have probably never been particularly popular, despite the fact that some early American lawyers today enjoy something of a posthumous honeymoon as the founding fathers or framers. Even so, the reputation of counsel in general is at a particularly low ebb in the late twentieth century. Some of the anti-lawyer signposts are so familiar that they have become hackneyed and trite: the ubiquitous Shakespeare quotation, “first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers”; the public opinion surveys putting attorneys a notch below the proverbial used car salesman in job and trustworthiness ratings; and the perennial lawyer jokes.

Publication Citation

27 Fla. St. L. Rev. 25 (1999).