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Comparative Legal Profession Histories (Program)

Tony Alfieri, University of Miami School of Law (US); Felice Batlan, Chicago-Kent College of Law (US); Gwen Jordon, University of Illinois (US); Ann Southworth, UC Irvine School of Law (US); Susan Carle, American University Washington College of Law (US) (Moderator); and Michael Ariens, St. Mary's University School of Law (US)

Comparative Legal Profession Histories

This panel explores the development of the legal profession from an historical perspective, examining a variety of topics and seeking to draw lessons across areas of focus on race, gender, political ideology and more. Some speakers will focus on current research projects on the U.S. legal profession while others will look at the historical development of the legal profession through a comparative lens. The underlying question uniting the panel is: what can historical study reveal about legal profession values and commitments?


Michael Ariens: The Rise and Fall of Social Trustee Professionalism in Law


After the "lawyers' scandal" known as Watergate, elite American lawyers reaffirmed the ideal that the lawyer owed a duty of loyalty both to one's clients and to the public. This latter duty, called "social trustee" or "public interest" professionalism, was embodied in part in the rules of ethics. In 1977, when the ABA created a special committee, later known as the Kutak Commission, part of its charge was to install social trustee professionalism in what became the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The Kutak Commission's initial public draft of the Model Rules was attacked by many lawyer associations as sacrificing the lawyer's duty of loyalty to the client. This, many argued, was contrary to the fundamental professional duty of the American lawyer. The Kutak Commission retreated, then retreated again, as the debate on adoption of the Model Rules continued until 1983. As adopted, the Model Rules favored a market model of professionalism, largely to the exclusion of social trustee professionalism. A year later, Chief Justice Warren Burger gave a talk decrying a loss of professionalism within the legal profession. This sparked the "professionalism" movement, a three decade effort to restore a kind of social trustee professionalism. This paper examines the history of the American legal profession from 1970-1990, and suggests some lessons from this history may be useful to lawyers today.

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