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SUMMARY

  • 1. In all societies, the legal profession has been intimately connected with the rise and development of legal systems. As societies developed and their legal systems became more complex, lawyers as a class of skilled advocates emerged.
  • 2. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, a secular class of lawyers emerged in England. To a large extent, English lawyers received their training in the Inns of Court, at the hands of the legal profession itself, and not in the universities. Blackstone's appointment to the Vinerian Chair of Jurisprudence in 1758 marked the first effort to make English law a university subject.
  • 3. Legal education in the American colonies was initially modeled after the British system. Many of the early upper-class American lawyers obtained their training in the Inns of Court. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, general courses in law were established in many American universities. University law schools developed later in the nineteenth century and became the dominant form of legal education.
  • 4. The legal profession consists of four principal subgroups: lawyers in private practice, in government service, in private employment, and in the judiciary. Lawyers in private practice who are solo practitioners tend to have a lower status in the profession. Employment with the government is often considered a mobility route into a more prestigious practice for young lawyers. Some larger corporations today have legal departments that compare in size and excellence with those of the largest law firms. In the United States, there is no career judiciary, and there is no prescribed route for the young law graduate to become a judge.
  • 5. Law and lawyers are expensive. In criminal cases, the poor are represented either by public defenders or by court-appointed attorneys. In civil cases, the poor can gain access to lawyers through various legal-aid programs, including legal clinics.
  • 6. Today the ABA approves more than 200 law schools. Although women now comprise almost half of law students, African Americans and Latinos are still underrepresented in law school.
  • 7. Law school education still relies heavily on the case or Socratic method, which has remained virtually unchanged since its introduction. The method aims to acclimate the students to "thinking like a lawyer," but it has been criticized for the anxiety it creates among law students.
  • 8. Law schools socialize students toward an entrepreneurial value position and acceptance of the legal system as now constructed. In response to the growing criticism of the socialization process of law students, law schools have begun to emphasize interdisciplinary work and clinical programs.
  • 9. To maintain standards and to control entry into the bar, law school graduates are required to pass a standardized bar examination in the state where they wish to practice. This exam has stifled changes in legal education.
  • 10. Bar associations further restrict admission procedures to those who are morally fit to become lawyers. Applicants for admission to the bar must have "good moral character." Bar associations also act as interest groups in promoting social, economic, and political activities that the bar considers vital to its interests.
  • 11. Although violation of the bar's code of legal ethics may be punished by reprimand, suspension from the bar, or disbarment, only a very small proportion of lawyers who violate the ethical standards are ever subjected to disciplinary action.
 
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