Books by Mary Ann Glendon

Released: Nov. 1, 1994

An entertaining addition to the growing shelf of books about the discontents of lawyers and, by implication, the rest of the citizenry who has to put up with them. Glendon (Rights Talk, not reviewed), a professor at Harvard Law School who started her legal career as an associate at a large Chicago law firm, offers an extremely interesting—if somewhat rambling and ultimately inconclusive—mixture of personal anecdote and sociological theory to describe purportedly profound changes in the legal profession over the past half-century and the effect of these changes on our democratic society: the rise in the number of lawyers, the burgeoning caseloads (one federal judge refers to himself as the ``Terminator'' because of the need to get matters over with rapidly, often at the cost of reflective justice), the economic pressures that have, in some eyes, reduced professionalism in favor of market imperatives and created the rise of an adversarial class of lawyers who accede to their clients' every wish. Glendon solemnly quotes Gibbon with respect to another empire where the growth in lawyers and legalism coincided with a decline and fall in the spirit of law that makes republican government viable; yet the author is neither as pessimistic nor as whiny as Sol M. Linowitz in his recent lament (The Betrayed Profession, p. 372). She does, however, raise many more questions than she answers, and her premise of seismic shocks to the foundation of the profession remains just that: premise rather than proof. Over 20 years ago, S.F.C. Milsom demonstrated that the growth of the Anglo- American common law comes not from some idealized development of legal principles but from the everyday work of lawyers attempting to find new solutions for their clients' problems. In light of that historical perspective, it remains to be seen whether alterations to the legal profession and society since the early 1960s are as cataclysmic as Glendon characterizes them. Well written and thought provoking, if not totally convincing. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

Here, Harvard Law School professor Glendon argues eloquently and persuasively that modern American political discourse, by emphasizing an ever-expanding catalogue of rights to the exclusion of duties and responsibilities, has lost the central role in civic life envisioned for it by the Founding Fathers. Glendon shows that, in American society, both sides in political debates frame issues in terms of individual rights—flag- burning, domestic relations, and human reproduction, for example- -and that this tendency impedes understanding and compromise. Such stark formulations, she says, ultimately lead to coerced, and often unsatisfying, social arrangements. Glendon makes a compelling case that the American political lexicon lacks a vocabulary for expressing normative and moral concepts that individual Americans understand and value highly, and that the legal culture, with its single-minded emphasis on obtaining civil rights (as opposed to cultivating moral norms), has actually contributed, albeit unwittingly, to the debasement of American political and legal discourse. Glendon calls for the inclusion of the ``missing language of responsibility'' and the ``missing language of sociality'' in American political dialogue, and for an increasing emphasis on individuals' responsibilities to their communities as a necessary concomitant to the rights they exercise. A forceful and valuable analysis of the banality of modern American public debate. Read full book review >