A New Class of Lawyers: The Therapeutic as Rights Talk

31 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2006

See all articles by Kenneth Anderson

Kenneth Anderson

American University - Washington College of Law


This 1996 essay reviews three books: Anthony T. Kronman, 'The Lost Lawyer: Failing Ideals of the Legal Profession' (Belknap 1993); Steven Brint, 'In an Age of Experts: The Changing Role of Professionals in Politics and Public Life' (Princeton 1994); and Christopher Lasch, 'The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy' (WW Norton 1995). The review essay argues that lawyers in the United States should be seen as part of the professional New Class who use the law as a monopoly in the management by elites of the rest of society. The review examines the history of New Class theory - especially as criticized by Steven Brint - and locates lawyers within it as a group characterized by claims to expertise. The essay suggests that, contrary to Kronman, the dissatisfactions of American lawyers has to do less with the loss of calling of a profession than with the simultaneous demand of New Class lawyers to be simultaneously therapeutic-legal managers of society while commanding market rate compensation for apparent legal expertise that consists in large part of rent-seeking for access to the public-private divide that the law polices. The requirements of the older form of the lawyer as respected authority within a particular community restricts the mobility essential to securing market compensation for expertise and access. The unhappiness that Kronman identifies within the legal profession is, according to the conclusion of the article, best explained that it is not a glorious profession because it is not a glorious class, and lawyers are right to be unhappy. This article predates the increasing focus of social theory on the globalized professional - lawyers, managers, NGO workers - but it points toward a form of critical analysis in social theory of the horizontal integration of a globalized bourgeois class that seeks to manage global masses at the expense of vertical leadership and integration with particular national and local communities.

Keywords: class, new class, legal ethics, lawyering profession, social theory, lawyers, professions, sociology, experts, therapy, therapeutic, rights talk, globalization

JEL Classification: J44, K30, L33, L44, L84, Z10

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Kenneth, A New Class of Lawyers: The Therapeutic as Rights Talk. Columbia Law Review, Vol. 96, No. 4, pp. 1062-1092, May 1996, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=897087

Kenneth Anderson (Contact Author)

American University - Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States

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