Sorting: Legal Specialization and the Privatization of the American Legal Profession

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Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, Vol: 29, Issue: 3, Page: 579

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Ariens, Michael S
Michael S. Ariens; St. Mary’s University School of Law; lawyer; ethics; Code of Professional Responsibility; Watergate; Model Rules of Professional Conduct; Kutak Commission; pro bono; Cannon of Ethics; American Bar Association (“ABA”); Legal Services Program (“LSP”); professionalism; United States Supreme Court; Law; Supreme Court of the United States
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Beginning in the 1950s, legal specialization was promoted to the majority of the American legal profession, small firm and solo practice lawyers, by the elite of the bar as the future of legal professionalism. Legal specialization was a form of sorting lawyers, and sorting was contrary to the traditional understanding of an undivided legal profession. Over the course of the next thirty years, this effort succeeded. This new understanding of legal professionalism emphasized the idea of competence based on a deep but particularized knowledge of law. This resulted in a slipping away of the beliefs that law was a public profession and it was the duty of the public-minded lawyer to remain independent of all clients. The shift from the traditional idea of lawyer professionalism distanced American lawyers from one another and from the broader communities in which they practiced law. It also tied lawyers more closely to their clients, which helped lead to a private, market model of American lawyering