In THE JUSTICE BROKER, Herbert Kritzer uses data collected by the Civil Litigation Research Project (CLRP) to explore
the role of attorneys participating in "ordinary" civil cases (cases involving $25,000 or less). Kritzer argues that a sophisticated
understanding of civil lawyers' work requires transcending a conception of lawyers as professionals, selfless servants who act
autonomously, employing specialized knowledge and skills gained through rigorous training to resolve disputes. This conception
must be supplemented by viewing civil lawyers as brokers, self- interested intermediaries who resolve disputes using informal,
"insider" knowledge gained through participation in relationships with other parties in litigation. According to Kritzer, a "dual
framework" that includes both professional and broker roles is most fruitful in capturing the complexity of lawyers' behavior and
illustrates the tensions and contradictions characterizing the lawyer's daily work.
This thin volume (176 pages of text, including over 50 tables and figures) is largely, though not exclusively, a compilation and
synthesis of several previously published research papers relying on CLRP data by Kritzer and his associates. These data were
gathered through telephone interviews with 1382 lawyers in five judicial districts who had been involved in a sample of 1649
state and federal civil cases terminated in 1978. Kritzer examines these data in order to identify aspects of lawyers' work that
correspond to the alternative role conceptions.
The book begins by describing four dimensions that distinguish professionals from brokers: the nature of attorney expertise
(technical/formal for professionals versus insider/informal for brokers), the role of the fee-paying relationship (not important to
professionals, very significant to brokers), the degree of client control (low for professionals, high for brokers), and the
lawyers's position in relation to other actors (professionals with autonomy versus brokers embedded in a web of relationships.)
The chapters that follow describe the data employed, types of cases handled by attorneys in the sample (area of law, stakes,
parties), characteristics of attorneys (legal background, experience, practice setting, attitudes toward work), relations between
lawyers and clients (how clients find lawyers, why lawyers accept cases, how fee arrangements are decided upon and
discussed, control of litigation), relations between lawyers and other parties (opposing counsel, opposing party, judge), the
work done by lawyers (use of "formal" and "informal" legal skills, amount of time devoted to cases, types of actions taken),
relationship between fee arrangements and the time and effort allocated to cases, and case outcomes.
Kritzer's analysis indicates that the daily work of civil lawyers "is a blend of the professional and broker images with...a heavy
tendency toward the broker image" (p. 167). Although lawyers possess specialized
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knowledge gained in law school, they rarely use it in the processing of civil cases. Briefs are filed infrequently, lawyers make
heavy use of standardized legal forms, and the level of lawyer activity in typical cases is relatively modest. Kritzer uses these
findings to argue in a concluding chapter for the use of para- professionals in the handling of many types of ordinary civil
disputes. His argument is bolstered by CLRP data suggesting that, in the median case, lawyers allocate only 30 hours of their
time. In state court cases, which constitute the vast majority of civil cases, lawyers allocate less than 20 hours to the "typical"
case. Consistent with the professional role conception, lawyers act with considerable autonomy from their clients. But lawyers
are quite interested in receiving fees for their services, are embedded in relationships with opposing counsel, parties, and
judges, and the fee-paying arrangement (contingent versus hourly) structures the process by which lawyers allocate time to
cases. Throughout the book, Kritzer's analysis is thorough, careful, and nicely qualified. His considerable methodological skills
are apparent, particularly in chapters that examine the effects of fee- arrangement and case outcomes. Moreover, findings are
placed intelligently in the context of previous work on lawyers and the legal profession.
Kritzer appears to extract the maximum amount of information on lawyers' behavior and activity from the CLRP data.
However, limitations in the data, many of which Kritzer discusses candidly, confine what can be learned about civil lawyers
and, in some cases, raise questions about the author's interpretations and conclusions. CLRP's primary purpose was to examine
various stages in the civil dispute resolution process. Consequently, CLRP employed the "case" rather than the "lawyer" as the
unit of analysis (Kritzer, 1980- 81). Although CLRP collected an impressive amount of information regarding attorneys in
cases, these data appear to have been sought to further illuminate processes of dispute resolution, rather than to determine the
precise role that attorneys play in these processes. This may explain why many of the connections that Kritzer seeks to draw
between CLRP data and lawyers' role conceptions are loose and, at times, forced.
Lawyers backgrounds (law school attended, experience) and practice settings, for example, are not clearly related to Kritzer's
operational definitions of alternative roles. In a similar way, it is difficult to understand how lawyers' responses to a question
regarding the relative importance to them of such things as intellectual challenge, winning, making a decent living, helping
individual people with problems, and gaining the respect of family and friends, sheds light on their role (p. 47). Indeed,
conceptual problems in the professional/broker distinction itself render it difficult to interpret these responses. Professionals may
enjoy "making a decent living," although this is not their primary motivation in practicing law. They also may enjoy "helping
individual people with problems," although they do so by making decisions on their own and through the use of specialized
knowledge. Brokers, on the other hand, may enjoy the "intellectual challenge" of informally resolving disputes, rather than the
challenge of engaging in legal research, writing briefs, and persuading judges and juries. Kritzer shows that most lawyers believe
that a reputation for "thoroughness" characterizes the successful litigator. But in response to another question, most lawyers did
not seem to enjoy the "planning and research" required for thorough preparation. Although Kritzer never suggests that
professionals must enjoy all aspects of their work, he concludes that the contradiction in responses between viewing
thoroughness as a desirable quality in
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a litigator and not enjoying planning and research "may be a hint that the daily work of litigation is less the work of the abstractly
trained and oriented professional and more the world of the streetwise and experienced insider, the broker" (p. 51).
CLRP data are weakest in exploring relationships between lawyers and their "workgroups," crucial relationships for
distinguishing between professional and brokers. Although recognizing some of the data's limitations, Kritzer suggests that civil
lawyers are "deeply embedded in a web of relationships that influence services provided to the litigant-client" (p. 76). He
constructs this "web" from lawyers' responses to a handful of questions regarding previous relations with opposing counsel,
opposing parties, and judges. The questions are so general (e.g., before you took this case, did you know the lawyer for the
opposing side on a personal basis, outside of business?) that they provide no detail on the direction (e.g., "I know her well and
dislike her" or "We ski together on holidays"), intensity, value, or impact of these relations.
CLRP's focus on cases leads Kritzer to look for explanations of lawyers' activity exclusively in elements of the cases and
parties to the cases. While these factors are significant, the explanatory frameworks can not incorporate findings from research
appearing since the design of CLRP that examine relationships between local culture and civil dispute processes. Engel's (1984)
study of "Sander County" and Greenhouse's (1986) examination of an Atlanta suburb, for example, suggest that widely shared
local norms play a large role in shaping the civil dispute process and may help explain variations within and across jurisdictions
in lawyer and litigant behavior. Although the CLRP collected data from five different jurisdictions, Kritzer does not compare
lawyer activity among them, choosing instead to aggregate lawyers' responses. This choice creates the impression that civil
lawyers behave in similar ways, regardless of their geographical location (in one of the few comparisons across jurisdictions,
Kritzer notes that past referrals from opposing counsel are more frequent in the less urban districts (p. 70)).
The exclusive reliance on structured survey questions in this study also limits what can be learned. In many areas, more detail is
needed -- the type of detail that one only acquires through observation or in-depth interviews -- to interpret and make sense of
survey responses. Kritzer, for example, draws conclusions about client control and lawyer autonomy from a survey question
asking lawyers and litigants to characterize their relationship by selecting among several possible responses. Lawyers were
asked if clients (1) provided instructions followed by the lawyer, (2) approved decisions made by the lawyer, (3) discussed
issues with lawyers, who then made decisions based on these discussions, or (4) turned the case completely over to lawyers (p.
61). The responses to such structured questions may mask important lawyer-client dynamics. For example, the "broker" who
follows client instructions may frame questions to achieve desired "instructions": "My twenty years of legal experience tell me
that going to trial is very risky. I've seen some real disasters! But, of course, you make the decisions here. What will it be?" And
clients who believe they control the lawyer's decisions may ask for advice (and follow it) every step of the way.
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The absence of in-depth interviews and observations also raises questions about Kritzer's argument that "the
professional/broker distinction actually captured the conflicts that confront lawyers in their day-to-day work...Lawyers work in
a world that involves large elements of schizophrenia, regarding both the expectations of lay clients and observers and the
economic realities that impinge on the routine work most nonelite lawyers perform most of the time" (p. 166). Without
discussing these "conflicts," "tensions," or "contradictions" with lawyers to assess whether they experience them as such, no
reliable conclusions may be drawn regarding their significance. Indeed, I am not persuaded that any of the following situations
described by Kritzer as "conflicts" are experienced in this way by attorneys: lawyers are concerned about fee arrangements
(broker), but possess substantial autonomy in carrying out their work (professional); lawyers are well trained and possess
considerable technical expertise (professional), but rarely go to trial or file briefs (broker); lawyers believe that thorough
preparation characterizes the successful litigator (professional), but dislike doing the work that thoroughness implies (broker). It
is unclear, then, whether the "tension" or "conflict" discussed by Kritzer constitutes an important element of the civil lawyer's
consciousness or merely has been imposed by the author as a result of his conceptual framework.
Like much of the published work employing CLRP data, the clear strength of THE JUSTICE BROKER is its description of
civil justice processes and the work that civil lawyers do in ordinary litigation. Despite the limitations of CLRP data for
addressing the roles of civil lawyers, and although one may object to or quibble with operational definitions and measures
relating to the conception of alternative roles, Kritzer makes a credible case that civil attorneys involved in routine cases behave
very much like the solo practitioner, private criminal defense lawyer, and legal services attorney described in previous research.
Data presented on such things as the amount of time lawyers spend on cases, the infrequent use of legal research in the writing
of briefs and preparation for formal legal proceedings, and the impact of fee- arrangement on lawyers' activity, constitute
significant empirical findings that may stimulate more theoretically -guided research in the future.
Engel, David M. 1984. "The Oven Bird's Song: Insiders, Outsiders, and Personal Injuries in an American Community," LAW
& SOCIETY REVIEW. 18:551-582.
Greenhouse, Carol J. 1986. PRAYING FOR JUSTICE: FAITH, ORDER, AND COMMUNITY IN AN AMERICAN
TOWN. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Kritzer, Herbert M. 1980-81. "Studying Disputes: Learning from the CLRP Experience." LAW & SOCIETY REVIEW.