Learning Objectives 239

Origins of the Legal Profession 240

Understanding Professions and Professionalization 240

The Emergence of Attorneys 241

Evolution of the American Legal Profession 244

Post-Revolutionary America 244

1870 and Beyond 245

Gender and Race in the Legal Profession 246

The Rise of the Corporate Attorney 248

The Legal Profession Today 248

The Negative Image of Lawyers 249

The Employment of Lawyers 249

Revenue Streams: Lawyers and Money 254

Competition for Business 255

Legal Services for the Poor and the Not So Poor 257

Law School 259

A Brief Look at Enrollment and Admission 259

Women and People of Color in Law School 260

The Training and Socialization of Law Students 261

Bar Admission 264

Licensing 265

Character and Moral Fitness 266

Bar Associations as Interest Groups 266

Professional Discipline 267

Summary 269

Key Terms 270

Suggested Readings 271

References 271


  • Outline the emergence of lawyers in England before the end of the eighteenth century
  • Explain why lawyers were unpopular in colonial America
  • List the changes that Dean Langdell of Harvard Law School made in legal education beginning in 1870
  • Describe the four major subgroups of attorneys
  • Summarize the advantages and disadvantages of the Socratic method

An appraisal of the legal profession touches on fundamental issues in sociological and sociolegal theory—issues involving power, social control, stratification, socialization, and the social organization of legal work. This chapter examines the character of the legal profession and the social forces shaping it. It begins with a historical background of law, with an emphasis on the professionalization of lawyers and the evolution of the legal profession in America. Next, the chapter focuses on the legal profession today, including the kinds of legal practice and the competition among lawyers for business. The chapter then turns to legal services to the poor and to law schools and legal education. We conclude the chapter with some comments on bar admission, bar associations as interest groups, and professional discipline.

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