Honor among lawyers

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Citation: John Heinz, Edward Laumann (1994) Honor among lawyers. Chicago Lawyers, Revised Edition: The Social Structure of the Bar (RSS)
Internet Archive Scholar (fulltext): Honor among lawyers
Tagged: Sociology (RSS) status (RSS), law (RSS)

Summary (Abstract)

Chapter 4 of Heize and Laumann's classic book on laywers in Chicago discusses status among lawyers and is an important book unpacking some of the dynamics of status hierarchies. The chapter presents the results of a survey of lawyers who were asked to rate each of a 30 different fields of lawy. The results came back as very high reliability, even including respondents own suggestion.

At the top of the end of the prestige spectrum was work that tended to be work done for organizations. The top of the pile was all corporate law (e.g., securities, tax, etc) and at the bottom was work done for individuals (e.g., family law or divorce). The authors then cluster these based on the way in which each of the rankings was rated in relation to each of the other fields by each judge. The results show clear clusters into a series of high status clusters associated with companies and a series of low status clusters associated with individuals.

The authors then present a second analysis that uses a panel of experts to describe each field based on a series of qualities including intellectual challenge, rapidity of change, public service, ethical conduct, and freedom of action. Intellectual challenge is positively related, so is rapidity of change, public service is negatively associated with prestige, ethical conduct is much more complicated (going highly to corporate law and civil liberties work) and freedom of action tends to be negative in the higher prestige fields.

The authors then present an analysis of demographic and other characteristics and show correlations to different fields. Interesting, elite law school is very close to no relationship because of the large number of elite law schools sending people on to low prestige fields like civil liberties. Low-prestige fields are much more likely to have Jews practices, more likely to be involved in public services, less likely to involve additional professional training, less likely to make money, and much more likely to serve lower-status clients.

The chapter ends with a connection to Andy Abbott who suggests, in his work on the professions, that the most highly respect parts of the profession are the ones that work with the most abstract in what is often called the "purity thesis."