Law and Society | L4375

The legal profession is usually treated by the academy as a unitary profession. However, the reality of the world of lawyers depends heavily on the nature of one's practice. This course adopts an overview of the historical, economic, and sociological factors that have shaped and continue to shape the modern legal marketplace. The central focus is the law firm as a business organization. A recurring theme throughout the course is the tension between the ideal of the lawyer as a trusted autonomous professional and an emerging business environment that increasingly treats legal services as a commodity input.

The framework for this course is derived from Heinz and Laumann's study of Chicago lawyers. The core principle underlying Heinz and Laumann's work is that a lawyer's social, professional, and economic interests are primarily defined by the type of clients a lawyer services. In this class students focus on three hemispheres of practice: 1) lawyers who serve organizational clients, such as corporations, institutions, and labor unions; 2) lawyers that provide personal services to individuals and small businesses; and 3) trial lawyers, the class action bar, and "cause" or public interest lawyers.

Students spend approximately half of the course on readings that provide context for these three spheres. The focus of the remaining time is as follows.

(1) The inner-workings of law firms, including law firm culture, compensation structure, governance, and who makes partner; (2) Trends in the legal market place - including law firm compensation; increased competition, growth in law firm size, increase in women and minority lawyers in the profession, and anti-lawyer sentiments in popular culture; (3) We will ask how economic, social, and cultural trends affect lawyers' work.

Prerequisites: None
Credit Hours: 3
ULW: This course does not satisfy the Upper Level Writing requirement (ULW)

Return to Course List