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Re-Valuing Lawyering for Middle Income Clients

28 Pages Posted: 11 May 2007  

Susan Carle

American University Washington College of Law

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In this short Essay I argue that we should assign more honor to lawyering for middle income clients. By this I mean that we should hold in esteem careers involving lawyering for middle income clients in much the same way we currently value careers in what is often referred to as "public interest" law. Instead of conceiving of a binary distinction between "public" and "private" interest law, we should think about jobs in the legal profession as falling on a spectrum, along which the public service dimension of a legal position is inversely related to the wealth and power of one's clients. Thus, my proposed model would see more value in representing poor people than middle income clients, but would also see more value in representing middle income clients than wealthy and powerful ones, especially when one is representing middle income clients against more powerful interests. This model, if adopted as an alternative prestige hierarchy among even a small group of the nation's law students, could have important benefits in steering the many socially committed students who do not secure traditional "public interest" jobs to law practice settings other than large law firms representing the nation's most powerful and wealthy interests, and at the same time increase the quality and availability of legal services for middle income clients.

Keywords: legal ethics, public interest law, poverty law

Suggested Citation

Carle, Susan, Re-Valuing Lawyering for Middle Income Clients. Fordham Law Review, Vol. 70, p. 719, 2002. Available at SSRN:

Susan D. Carle (Contact Author)

American University Washington College of Law ( email )

4300 Nebraska Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016
United States
202 274 4188 (Phone)
202 274 4130 (Fax)


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