The Lawyer's MythReviving Ideals in the Legal Profession

The Lawyer's MythReviving Ideals in the Legal Profession

Walter Bennett

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226042558

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Lawyers today are in a moral crisis. The popular perception of the lawyer, both within the legal community and beyond, is no longer the Abe Lincoln of American mythology, but is often a greedy, cynical manipulator of access and power. This book goes beyond the caricatures to explore the deeper causes of why lawyers are losing their profession and what it will take to bring it back. The book draws on experiences as a lawyer, judge, and law teacher, as well as upon oral histories of lawyers and judges, in this exploration of how and why the legal profession has lost its ennobling mythology. Effectively using examples from history, philosophy, psychology, mythology, and literature, the book shows that the loss of professionalism is more than merely the emergence of win-at-all-cost strategies and a scramble for personal wealth. It is something more profound—a loss of professional community and soul. The book identifies the old heroic myths of American lawyers and shows how they informed the values of professionalism through the middle of the last century. It shows why, in our more diverse society, those myths are inadequate guides for today's lawyers. And the book also discusses the profession's agony over its trickster image and demonstrates how that archetype is not only a psychological reality, but a necessary component of a vibrant professional mythology for lawyers.