Legal Culture and the Legal Profession

Legal Culture and the Legal Profession

Legal Culture and the Legal Profession

Legal Culture and the Legal Profession

Synopsis

The American legal system is under heavy attack for the impact it is supposed to have on American culture and society generally. A common complaint of the anti-lawyer movement is that under the influence of lawyers we have become a "litigious society," in the process undermining traditional American values such as self-reliance and responsibility. In this volume a group of distinguished scholars in law and the social sciences explores these questions. Neither an apology for lawyers nor a critique, Legal Culture and the Legal Profession examines the successes and the problems of the U. S. legal system, its impact on the broader culture, and the spread of American legal culture abroad.

Excerpt

Lawrence M. Friedman and Harry N. Scheiber

The papers collected in this volume were originally presented in May, 1993, at a conference held at the Center for the Study of Law and Society, University of California, Berkeley, under the principal sponsorship of the Western Center of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. This conference brought together an international group of scholars in law, humanities, and the social sciences. The general topic of the conference was the relationship between legal systems and the cultures in which they are imbedded, with particular emphasis on the legal profession. The seven papers in this volume are lineal descendants of the seven principal papers presented at the conference.

A word should be said at the outset about the concept of "legal culture." Scholars have used the term in a number of senses. Sometimes the phrase describes legal consciousness--attitudes, values, beliefs, and expectations about law and the legal system. At other times, scholars employ the term in a broader but somewhat vaguer meaning--to capture what is distinctive about patterns of thought and behavior in, say, American law. Some sweep even more into the category: legal institutions and the distinctive ways they function. In any case, the term refers to living law, to law as a dynamic process; if the dry texts of statutes and cases, and the organizational charts that describe legal institutions are the bones and skeleton of a legal system, then legal culture is what makes the system move and breathe. The authors of the essays, however they make use of the term, never stray too far from the core meaning of legal consciousness: the law as image and incentive, in the minds of members of some public.

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