The Popular Image of the American Lawyer: Some Thoughts on its Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Intellectual Bases
James Wice Gordon
Western New England University School of Law
Washington and Lee Law Review, Vol. 46, p. 763, 1989
This essay explores the ambiguous position lawyers occupy in the popular mind in America by identifying some of the ideas which contributed to the schizophrenic popular attitude toward the legal profession in the period between the American Revolution and the Civil War. Many of the stock anti-lawyer themes and many of the intellectual sources of the profession's strength are clearly visible by the end of this period. The Author explores this problem, first by relating it to recent scholarship in American history describing the struggle between republicanism and liberalism at the time of the Founding. The way the profession was ground between these ideals, attacked by one, championing and then apparently betraying the goals of the other, illustrates well the process which has shaped the image of lawyers in the United States. Other points of contact have contributed to the complexity of lay attitudes toward lawyers. Some illustrated the usefulness of lawyers. Many produced resentment. Still others did both, depending on the perspective of the viewer. Among the points the Author discusses are attitudes toward change, autonomy, reason, human nature, and law itself. Ultimately, arguing that although lawyers were more hated than loved, their indispensability was widely recognized.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 44
Keywords: American lawyers, popular image, negative image
Date posted: December 15, 2011