Ideologies of Professionalism and the Politics of Self-Regulation in the California State Bar

144 Pages Posted: 12 Mar 2008


This Article is a socio-legal analysis of the California State Bar lawyer discipline system. The article draws on legal professions theory, legal ethics, legal history, and cultural analysis, and it is based on archival data, interviews with State Bar actors, and empirical data on the Bar's disciplinary system. The article examines the historical and cultural context of a perceived crisis in California State Bar lawyer discipline in the 1980s and 1990s and concludes that, while the crisis stemmed from demonstrable organizational ineffectiveness in the lawyer discipline system of the State Bar, it also needs to be understood as part of a larger--and recurring--crisis of professionalism in the legal profession.

The article also examines the Bar's response to the discipline crisis and argues that, contrary to the bar's harshest critics (and critical professions theory), the reforms initiated by the Bar and imposed by the state legislature improved the lawyer disciplinary system in California. Nevertheless, the article concludes that organizational and structural factors identified in this study limit the effectiveness of any system of lawyer self-regulation.

Keywords: legal profession, legal ethics, bar associations, legal history

Suggested Citation

Gallagher, William T., Ideologies of Professionalism and the Politics of Self-Regulation in the California State Bar. Pepperdine Law Review, Vol. 22, No. 485, 1995. Available at SSRN:

William T. Gallagher (Contact Author)

Golden Gate University School of Law ( email )

536 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
United States
(415) 369-5339 (Phone)

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