Revitalizing the Lawyer-Poet: What Lawyers Can Learn from Rock and Roll

17 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2020

Date Written: May 11, 2010


This essay offers a novel take on the crisis of professionalism and its causes, consequences, and cure. I suggests that one reason for the failure of the bar's twenty-year campaign to revive professionalism is because it has misidentified the problem as lawyer's increased business behavior. Instead, the essay argues that the roots of lawyers' decreased commitment to the public good can be found primarily in the social changes of the 1960s that made untenable professionalism's dichotomy between self-interested businesses and altruistic lawyers.

Rather than dwell on the bar's failed strategies, the essay instead offers rock and roll as a possible source of inspiration. While trying to make money, rock musicians find passion in their work, serve as both social critics and members of the establishment, and make music with a democratic appeal. Why couldn't lawyers also make money, have fun, and do good? Their everyday work can be full of passion, even when they represent corporate clients. But the more difficult obstacles to embracing the spirit of rock and roll are in acknowledging moral responsibility and employing a democratic approach to access to justice.

This analysis tracks a DVD film essay of the same name. The film's Director is Brian Danitz, whose previous credits include a Sundance featured documentary and the cinematography of Bowling for Columbine. To place an order for the DVD and associated teaching materials, email

Keywords: professionalism, public good, legal profession, business-profession dichotomy, rock and roll, Jimi Hendrix, crisis of professionalism, lawyers, pro bono, nonlawyer practice, legal ethics, legal education, film, continuing legal education

Suggested Citation

Pearce, Russell G., Revitalizing the Lawyer-Poet: What Lawyers Can Learn from Rock and Roll (May 11, 2010). Widener Law Journal, Symposium on The Lawyer as Poet Advocate: Bruce Springsteen and the American Lawyer, Vol. 14, p. 907, 2005, Fordham Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 908897, Available at SSRN:

Russell G. Pearce (Contact Author)

Fordham University School of Law ( email )

140 West 62nd Street
New York, NY 10023
United States
212-636-6834 (Phone)
212-636-6899 (Fax)

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