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The Betrayed Profession: Lawyering at the End of the Twentieth Century.

Sol Linowitz has had an impressive halfcentury career as a lawyer. He is a former ambassador to the Organization of American States, he negotiated the Panama Canal Treaties under President Jimmy Carter, he served as chairman of the board for Xerox, and he recently retired from practice as a senior partner at a Washington, D.C., law firm.

His recent book is an uncommon look at the legal profession, and it reflects the wealth of the author's experiences and his obvious deep love for lawyering and the law itself. It should be on the reading list of every lawyer, and it is "must" reading for lawyers under age 45. They are the cause of what the author believes is the internal rotting of a magnificent calling--the U.S. legal profession.

It is not necessary to go beyond the third page to find a simple statement summing up the author's feelings:

Lawyers have also, always, been fiduciaries, actors on behalf of others, who put the interests of those others ahead of their own. This was not a matter of altruism: Their license to practice law implied the acceptance and enforcement of fiduciary obligations. the satisfactions of practicing law were in the knowledge that others depended upon your judgment, your loyalty, and your abilities, and that at the end of the day you knew that you had, in fact, helped your client.

Linowitz is a man of vast experience in the world of law, and his insights are applicable to any area of practice. His feelings about intraprofessional collegiality are particularly relevant in a modern world of practice that too often produces the "win at any price" syndrome.

For example, he notes that the focus of many large firms on billable hours has eaten away at the foundation of a service profession and has led to such debacles as the savings and loan industry failures. The once "sacred" relationship between a lawyer and client was not only sanctified by the law itself but also by the tenets of practice among law professionals. In some instances, modern practice has abandoned the concept of the lawyerclient relationship, what the author calls "a great responsibility."

Linowitz criticizes the lawyer "punch clock[s] churning out billable time units." He likewise notes that the trusted client counselor has all too often been replaced by large firms that do whatever the paying client wants. He suggests that independent professional decisions are being replaced by the dictates of corporate clients' board rooms. He deplores the practice of "good professionals" taking on unworthy clients.

One glaring omission in the book is the lack of focus on the average lawyer. There is not much discussion about the lawyer who is not immersed in the hierarchy of business practice--the lawyer who is working in small and mediumsize communities. For example, Linowitz has a lack of appreciation for the need and service of the contingent fee in personal injury litigation. He suggests that it be replaced with a formulaic compensation system similar to the workers' compensation or Social Security systems.

This suggestion comes not from arrogance but from lack of in-depth experience in personal injury litigation. Linowitz fails to see how well the current tort system serves the interests of the poor and oppressed. However, he does recognize a need for worker protection and the right to redress for injuries caused by wrongful conduct.

The book is full of criticism of the modern practice of law, but it also is thoughtful enough to explore how bar associations, lawyers, judges, and law schools can help restore concepts of legal professionalism. Linowitz particularly laments the passing of "the community of the Bar"--a sense of community that encouraged lawyers to celebrate holidays together, stage amateur theatrics, applaud each other's triumphs, and support each other in adversity.

It is understandable that Linowitz would have such strong opinions--he has been an honorable and successful lawyer for more than five decades, and he clearly has a deep devotion to the law and the profession. Some may disagree with his opinions of where the responsibility for the breakdown of the profession lies or how things can be improved. But nobody should criticize him for passionately speaking his mind.

The Betrayed Profession bravely challenges lawyers to regain the public's respect by engaging in good works in their professional and personal lives. Linowitz's challenge should be heard loud and clear by all lawyers.
COPYRIGHT 1994 American Association for Justice
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Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Strodel, Robert C.
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1994
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