Book Review: The Effect of Context on Practice
32 Pages Posted: 23 Mar 2016
Date Written: Fall 2004
In Divorce Lawyers At Work, Lynn Mather, Craig McEwen and Richard Maiman offer an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the effects of context on lawyers' practice. Their project offers what so many legal works do not-empirical investigation to test many hotly contested questions about the realities of contemporary lawyers' lives in the law in the United States. The authors' study is of 163 lawyers practicing divorce law in New Hampshire and Maine. Of these, five lawyers receive more extensive examination and description throughout the book. While the examination of these lawyers' practice lives is so rich with themes that it proved difficult to choose a narrowing focus for this Review, I have chosen three specific themes for closer examination that are of particular relevance to current debates about the legal profession. First, are lawyers zealous client advocates? Are they "client-centered," in the terms of that phrase as used in the clinical legal education movement? Second, does gender make a difference to law practice? Do women lawyers tend to have different practice styles? Are they more nurturing and compassionate? Are they motivated differently from men and do they perceive the rewards and frustrations of their practices differently? Third and finally, how much does context count? Are there systematic correlations in variables such as size of practice, nature of clientele, gender of clients, gender of lawyers, and differences in lawyers' practice approaches and styles? If so, what accounts for these observed variations and what are their consequences? Do such differences belie conceptions of the American bar as a unitary one, in which all practitioners should be subject to the same regulations? Mather, McEwen and Maiman's book looks at all of these questions, and many more, with a fresh, open perspective, sensitive to nuances and sympathetic to their subjects, but capable of synthesis, detached observation, and critique as well.
Keywords: client-centered legal practice
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