The Problem and Possibilities of Professionalism
Dublin University Law Journal, Vol. 21, p. 109, 1999
23 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2010
Date Written: 1999
During the past 50 years, the legal profession in the United States has experienced unprecedented growth in numbers, prosperity and influence. The number of lawyers has increased almost fivefold; lawyers are well-compensated in the main, with many being handsomely paid; and the influence of lawyers and the law is felt throughout the public and private institutions of American life. At the same time, members of the legal profession express strong feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction with their work, their colleagues, the lives they lead and the profession itself. Members of the public express somewhat different, but no less serious reservations aout the legal profession, its members, and its values. A recurring theme among both groups is the apparent decline of "professionalism" within the legal profession.
The word "professionalism" is ubiquitous, but the concept is more often invoked than explained. The aim of this paper is to pay closer attention to what we mean when we talk about "professionalism," and , thus to clarify what is at stake in the conversations we have. The paper will begin with a short description of the legal profession in the United States. The second part will describe the nature of the ongoing debate about "professionalism." The third part will consider the various ways in which we typically use the word "professional." and the fourth part will seek to develop a deeper understanding of the problem through the perspective of the sociology of the professions. The final section will suggest the need for a more robust and public-spirited concept of "professionalism."
Keywords: Legal profession, professionalism, legal education
JEL Classification: K1, K10, K4, K40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation