TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Good Lawyer: Seeking Quality in the Practice of Law

Good LawyerDouglas Linder (UMKC) & Nancy Levit (UMKC), The Good Lawyer: Seeking Quality in the Practice of Law (Oxford University Press, 2014), reviewed by David Lat (Above the Law), Over a Third of All Law-School Graduates Can't Find Work Requiring Bar Passage. It's Worth Asking: What Does a Good Lawyer Look Like?, Wall Street Journal:

What does it mean to be a good lawyer? One is tempted to respond by quoting Justice Potter Stewart's famous quip about pornography: "I know it when I see it." But that wouldn't be terribly
illuminating, particularly during a period of such turmoil and transformation for the legal profession, with lawyers chasing after scarce jobs and firms fighting for limited clients. As Douglas Linder and Nancy Levit note in their new book, over a third of all law-school graduates cannot find work requiring bar passage, and median starting salaries for lawyers fell by 15% from 2009 to 2012.

A follow-up to Mr. Linder and Ms. Levit's 2010 book, The Happy Lawyer, which explored widespread dissatisfaction among attorneys, The Good Lawyer takes up this critical question. Inspired by the elusive goodness called "Quality" that Robert Pirsig explored in his philosophical novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (1974), the authors argue that this same value is the key to being a good lawyer. They identify various lowercase "q" qualities that make up Quality, such as empathy, courage and willpower, and devote one chapter to each of these attributes and six others. ...

Not until the final chapter do the authors touch upon the grim realities of the current job market. An account of how to be a good lawyer should grapple more seriously with how the pursuit of noble ideals can be maintained in the face of crushing educational debt and diminishing job opportunities. Earlier works on the subject, like The Lost Lawyer (1993) by former Yale Law School Dean Anthony Kronman, have struck a stronger balance between ideals and reality.

Book Club, Legal Education | Permalink


The LSAT may indicate one area of intelligence, but it does not predict empathy, courage, willpower or any other quality indicator.

Posted by: Mark P. Yablon | Jun 15, 2014 5:10:33 AM