Anthony Kronman describes a spiritual crisis affecting the American legal profession, and attributes it to the collapse of what he calls the ideal of the lawyer-statesman: a set of values that prizes good judgment above technical competence and encourages a public-spirited devotion to the law.
For nearly two centuries, Kronman argues, the aspirations of American lawyers were shaped by their allegiance to a distinctive ideal of professional excellence. In the last generation, however, this ideal has failed, undermining the identity of lawyers as a group and making it unclear to those in the profession what it means for them personally to have chosen a life in the law.
A variety of factors have contributed to the declining prestige of prudence and public-spiritedness within the legal profession. Partly, Kronman asserts, it is the result of the triumph, in legal thought, of a counterideal that denigrates the importance of wisdom and character as professional virtues. Partly, it is due to an array of institutional forces, including the explosive growth of the country’s leading law firms and the bureaucratization of our courts. The Lost Lawyer examines each of these developments and illuminates their common tendency to compromise the values from which the ideal of the lawyer-statesman draws strength. It is the most important critique of the American legal profession in some time, and an an enduring restatement of its ideals.
The Lost Lawyer is a major document in the history of American law. Its historical importance aside, however, it is also a work of extraordinary psychological, moral and philosophical importance to the legal profession. Kronman’s study is remarkable in its moral vision, social judgment and psychological power.
An eloquent and provocative book. When you listen to…[Kronman’s] diagnoses of just what has gone wrong with the job of lawyering today, you begin to see that the spreading disaffection of lawyers for their work should not be underestimated.
[This book] is an eloquent and impassioned work of scholarship. It makes an important contribution to the growing body of literature devoted to the study of the legal profession.
Kronman deploys philosophical acumen and wide learning to revive the ideal of the lawyer—whether counselor, advocate, scholar, teacher, or judge—as practitioner of a kind of wisdom that he argues has long been out of fashion. This is an important book.
Many thoughtful observers of the legal profession have come to wonder whether the profession’s traditional aspirations can possibly flourish in the current conditions of practice. Kronman is one of several critics to conclude, regretfully, that those aspirations are doomed… If lawyers could spare any time to read, The Lost Lawyer should really make them sit up and take notice of what has happened to them.
- 440 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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