Country Lawyers: The Impact of Context on Professional Practice

Country Lawyers: The Impact of Context on Professional Practice

Country Lawyers: The Impact of Context on Professional Practice

Country Lawyers: The Impact of Context on Professional Practice

Synopsis

The first broad-based study of its kind, this volume focuses on lawyers practicing in small towns and villages in order to determine whether the practicing rural bar is as profoundly shaped by the environment in which it operates as the metropolitan bar has been shown to be in previous studies. Based on interviews with 201 attorneys from 116 different communities, and using comparative data from a metropolitan setting, the author identifies the structuring influences that operate in small-town settings and argues that the rural bar is shaped more by external forces than by the internal logic of the legal doctrine or fields of practice.

Excerpt

Long before I began to do research on the social structure of the Chicago bar, I was an observer of the legal profession in a small town. My family was not engaged in the law business, but like most other residents of towns of 5,000 we found a good share of our entertainment in accounts of the doings at the courthouse. As topics of conversation, the exploits of lawyers and the folly of their clients had serious competition only from speculation on the amount and timing of past rain, learned commentary on the performance of the high school basketball team, and discussions of the myriad interrelationships among the old families in town. (At our dining table, accounts of who begat whom were given as much attention as they are in the Old Testament or in explanations of the job qualifications of Chicago officeholders.) I lived then in Carlinville, Illinois, the county seat of Macoupin County, about 250 miles south of Chigo.

The story of the building of the courthouse, itself, was an important part of the legal lore of the community, even though it had been built nearly a century before my time there. a version of the story is included in a standard work on Illinois architecture (Koeper, 1968, 32):

The history of the building of this courthouse is a notorious one, centering on its cost, which plunged the county into debt for forty-three years. Originally a sum of $50,000 was voted, but the completed work ran to $1,380,000 (in 1868 dollars!). the courthouse came into existence only after long litigation and heated opposition. the four commissioners in charge, assisted by Governor John M. Palmer, himself a Macoupin County resident, ultimately triumphed over the anti-courthouse party who tried to stop the work . . .

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