Just Lawyers: Regulation and Access to Justice

Just Lawyers: Regulation and Access to Justice

Just Lawyers: Regulation and Access to Justice

Just Lawyers: Regulation and Access to Justice


Just Lawyers proposes a model for the regulation and organization of lawyers, guided by an ideal of access to justice. It is grounded in empirical analysis of why people complain about lawyers, the nature of existing legal institutions, and the ethical ideals of the profession. Parker weaves the normative theory of deliberative democracy with the empirical law and society tradition of research on the limits and possibilities of law. She shows that access to justice can only occur in the interaction between courtroom justice, informal everyday justice, and social movement politics. Lawyers' justice should educate people's justice to improve the justice quality of everyday relationships and transactions, while community concerns (including community access to justice concerns) should reshape lawyers' regulation, organization, and practices to improve substantive justice. Just Lawyers shows how legal proffesionalism can only be revitalized through the reform of access to justice beyond lawyers.


In popular culture, writes Robert Post, 'the most striking aspect of the image of the lawyer . . . is the intense hostility with which it is invested' (Post 1987: 379). On the one hand movies portray lawyers as heroes of justice. As the authors of one study of the characterization of law and lawyers in film concluded,

A crucial feature of many of the films examined is the function of the lawyer; the legal process is the means to deliver justice and the lawyer is the bearer of the metaphorical sword. The indispensable central figure is the lawyer who ensures that equity and fairness are distributed to the deserving plaintiff or innocent defendant. (Greenfield &Osborn 1995: 115)

On the other hand, as Post and others point out, lawyer 'bashing' and lawyer jokes permeate our cultures (see Galanter 1994). On the whole people who use a lawyer are in fact satisfied with his or her performance (Galanter 1994: 663, Lafontaine 1985: 177). Yet surveys of public attitudes in the USA, Canada, England, and Australia consistently reveal that lawyers arouse amongst the most negative opinions or impressions of any occupation or profession (Daniel 1983: 118-22, Galanter 1994, Weisbrot 1990: 18, Yale 1982).

Over the last thirty years public concerns about the legal profession have motivated substantial critique and reform of the profession. This chapter and the next outline the major contours of judgment and reform that have faced common law legal professions. In this chapter the focus is on critiques of the profession's failures. The data used are existing empirical literature on lawyers' ethical breaches and offences, on client complaints, and on public attitudes towards lawyers. The purpose is not to argue that the whole legal profession is worse than any other profession or occupation, or that overall legal practice is of a low standard. This chapter simply focuses attention on what can potentially go wrong with legal professionals' delivery of legal services. The design of regulatory institutions (including disciplinary, ethical, and socializing processes) for legal professions must be based in an empirical under-

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