LAWYERS ON TRIAL by Philip M. Stern


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A short tract on the evils of ""the dark side of the legal profession"" and its failure to serve the middle 70 percent of the population, by a writer (The Rape of the Taxpayer) turned law student at midcareer. Stern has a flair for vivid rhetoric: law schools emphasize service to ""the tip of the economic pyramid""; the Canons of Ethics are permeated by a ""systematic double standard"" favoring those who represent the ""haves""; lawyers use unauthorized practice allegations to ""define the boundaries of their own private turf."" At a more substantive level, Stern argues that lawyers' fee-setting practices in probate and real estate matters are unfair; records the organized bar's historic, opposition to mavericks who buck the rules on advertising and pricing; and discusses the advantages that ""repeat players"" (frequent litigators, such as major corporations) normally enjoy over ""one-shotters"" (e.g., consumers) in most legal battles. While many of his criticisms of the profession are on point, Stern often falls prey to the Big Generalization, unsupported by any data (how, for example, can he be sure that IBM has more lawyers in-house than are available to ""a half-million poor in Brooklyn"") or supported at most by one or two illustrative case histories. Another weakness is Stem's emphasis on past problems of the bar which are now being corrected--low cost legal ""clinics"" are proliferating, as bar opposition evaporates; the Supreme Court has struck down bar association fee schedules as illegal price-fixing; lawyer advertising is now permitted, and increasing. And to support his claim that law school training produces graduates fit only to work for wealthy corporate clients or to be law professors themselves, Stern paints an out-of-date portrait of law schools--with which, presumably, he should be familiar. This flawed exercise in muckraking may succeed in irritating lawyers, but it won't be of much value to people who deal with them.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1980
Publisher: Times Books