The vision of professionalism that entranced the liberal legal elite for a century now strikes most lawyers and law students as implausible or uninteresting or both. The papers in this symposium by Robert Nelson and by Ronald Gilson and Robert Mnookin are outstanding examples of two of the current modes of repudiation of this vision: the mode of skepticism and the mode of indifference. Nelson takes the claims of the professional vision seriously, and, using a methodology responsive to them, sets out to refute them. Gilson and Mnookin ignore the vision, and, using a methodology that assumes the vision's invalidity, construct a radically different account of law practice.
I want to rehearse some of the themes of the professional vision and compare them to the contrasting ones sounded by these critics. I do not propose exactly to rehabilitate the professional vision. In part, I am prompted simply by the thought that, in case this symposium should prove its final burial, the vision should have some memorial here. I am also prompted by a sense that some of its themes may be more valuable or more resilient than the critics allow.
William H. Simon,
Babbitt v. Brandeis: The Decline of the Professional Ideal,
Stan. L. Rev.
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