Jewish Lawyers and the Legal Profession: The End of the Affair?
47 Pages Posted: 23 Jun 2020
Date Written: June 22, 2020
Scholars of the legal profession have long puzzled over the apparent affinity between Jewish lawyers and the law, in and outside of the United States. This article advances a new explanation to account for the overrepresentation of Jewish lawyers in the U.S. legal profession in the twentieth century: the Confluence of Circumstances theory. The theory shows that a confluence of circumstances including evolving practice realities, changing professional ideologies, increased competition, discrimination, and the cost of legal education coalesced to account for the affinity. Moreover, tracking the same conditions in the twenty-first century the theory predicts the end of the affair explaining why the practice of law no longer represents a particularly attractive proposition for Jews.
Exploring the success story of Jewish lawyers overcoming discrimination and gradually coming to occupy positions of power and influence in the legal profession, the theory illuminates the conditions under which law, legal practice and elite institutions such as large law firms and law schools can play a positive role in the ongoing quest of the profession to become more just, inclusive and equal for lawyers from previously excluded groups. The Confluence of Circumstances theory also sheds a light on the relationship between lawyers’ professional and personal identity. Documenting the ways in which facets of Jewish lawyers’ personal identity informed and shaped the formation of their professional identity and exercise of professional judgment, the theory helps discredit the myth of universal professionalism and lends support to accounts of professional identity that build on and synthesize aspects of lawyers’ personal identity as an alternative to the dominant bleached out professionalism paradigm.
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