Chicago Lawyers: The Social Structure of the Bar

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9780871543783: Chicago Lawyers: The Social Structure of the Bar

What determines the systematic allocation of status, power, and economic reward among lawyers?  What kind of social structure organizes lawyers’ roles in the bar and in the larger community?

As Heinz and Laumann convincingly demonstrate, the legal profession is stratified primarily by the character of the clients served, not by the type of legal service rendered.  In fact, the distinction between corporate and individual clients divides the bar into two remarkably separate hemispheres.  Using data from extensive personal interviews with nearly 800 Chicago lawyers, the authors show that lawyers who serve one type of client seldom serve the other.  Furthermore, lawyers’ political, ethno-religious, and social ties are very likely to correspond to those of their client types.  Greater deference is consistently shown to corporate lawyers, who seem to acquire power by association with their powerful clients.

Heinz and Laumann also discover that these two “hemispheres” of the legal profession are not effectively integrated by intraprofessional organizations such as the bar, courts, or law schools.  The fact that the bar is structured primarily along extraprofessional lines raises intriguing questions about the law and the nature of professionalism, questions addressed in a provocative and far-ranging final chapter.

This volume, published jointly with the American Bar Foundation, offers a uniquely sophisticated and comprehensive analysis of lawyers’ professional lives.  It will be of exceptional importance to sociologists and others interested in the legal profession, in the general study of professions, and in social stratification and the distribution of power.

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About the Author:

JOHN P. HEINZ is Professor of law and Urban Affairs at Northwestern University and Executive Director of the American Bar Foundation.

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