The Lost Lawyer: Failing Ideals of the Legal Profession

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Overview

Anthony Kronman describes a spiritual crisis affecting the American legal profession, and attributes it to the collapse of what he calls the ideal of the lawyer-statesman: a set of values that prizes good judgment above technical competence and encourages a public-spirited devotion to the law.

For nearly two centuries, Kronman argues, the aspirations of American lawyers were shaped by their allegiance to a distinctive ideal of professional excellence. In the last generation, however, this ideal has failed, undermining the identity of lawyers as a group and making it unclear to those in the profession what it means for them personally to have chosen a life in the law.

A variety of factors have contributed to the declining prestige of prudence and public-spiritedness within the legal profession. Partly, Kronman asserts, it is the result of the triumph, in legal thought, of a counterideal that denigrates the importance of wisdom and character as professional virtues. Partly, it is due to an array of institutional forces, including the explosive growth of the country's leading law firms and the bureaucratization of our courts. The Lost Lawyer examines each of these developments and illuminates their common tendency to compromise the values from which the ideal of the lawyer-statesman draws strength. It is the most important critique of the American legal profession in some time, and an an enduring restatement of its ideals.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
America's lawyers are viewed with ambivalence. The best, perhaps embodied by Atticus Finch in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird , combine judgment and principle with something of the scholar's love of the pursuit of truth. Yet Dan Quayle questions lawyers' basic honesty and trustworthiness at the annual American Bar Association convention. Kronman (law, Yale Univ.) worries about the decline of the ``lawyer-statesman,'' that lawyer who possesses more than just technical proficiency in legal persuasion. Kronman sees Abraham Lincoln and, more recently, the late Chief Justice Earl Warren as just such ``lawyer-statesmen.'' Both possessed those traits of prudence, wisdom, and judgment that counted far more than legal expertise. Their absence underlies the crisis facing the American legal profession. This is an interesting book, but it won't change many of the well-entrenched opinions about lawyers. For academic and larger public library legal collections.-- Jerry E. Stephens, U.S. Court of Appeals Lib., Oklahoma City
American Lawyer
An eloquent and provocative book. When you listen to...[Kronman's] diagnoses of just what has gone wrong with the job of lawyering today, you begin to see that the spreading disaffection of lawyers for their work should not be underestimated.
— Michael Orey
Michigan Law Review
[This book] is an eloquent and impassioned work of scholarship. It makes an important contribution to the growing body of literature devoted to the study of the legal profession.
— Anthony V. Alfieri
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674539266
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1993
  • Pages: 434
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.55 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Anthony T. Kronman is Dean of the Law School, Yale University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
Pt. 1 Ideals
1 An Embarrassed Virtue 11
2 Practical Wisdom and Political Fraternity 53
3 The Good Lawyer 109
Pt. 2 Realities
4 Law Schools 165
5 Law Firms 271
6 Courts 315
7 Honesty and Hope 353
Notes 383
Index 417
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