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The Humanization of Lawyers

84 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2003  

Fred C. Zacharias

University of San Diego School of Law


This article focus on a significant recent transformation that has occurred in the legal profession: the growing recognition that lawyers suffer from ordinary human failings. Society and professional regulators have tended to hold lawyers to a uniquely high standard of citizenship. Lawyers have been held responsible for avoiding personal incentives, natural psychological reactions, vices, and crime to a far greater extent than private citizens and other businesspersons. This article suggests that the fiction that lawyers are, or can be regulated into being, more upstanding than laypersons has begun to break down, with significant ramifications for the bar.

The humanization phenomenon has resulted in changing treatment of the bar, both in leading to a greater tolerance for lawyer vices (e.g., substance abuse) and resulting in more frequent prosecution and punishment for ordinary misconduct. This article discusses some of the other ramifications of the humanization of lawyers, including changes in the structure of law practice, the substance of lawyer regulation, the focus of bar programs, and the identities of who regulates lawyers.

Identifying these changes requires regulators to reassess the behavioral incentives they provide in the rules. Recognizing the hard reality about lawyers also enables the profession to deal with its negative image in society on a more honest basis. It may result to increased regulation of the bar in the future, but it may also allow bar regulators to focus more on understanding the needs of lawyers and helping them to find the services that satisfy those needs.

Keywords: professional responsibility, legal ethics

JEL Classification: K19, K40

Suggested Citation

Zacharias, Fred C., The Humanization of Lawyers. Professional Lawyer, Symposium Issue, 2003. Available at SSRN: or

Fred Zacharias (Contact Author)

University of San Diego School of Law

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States

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