Social Philosophy and Policy 4 (1):203 (1986)

I The existence of the legal profession is something most lawyers take for granted. Lawyers of course do many different things, and lead different sorts of lives, but those who make their living in the law tend to assume, without much reflection, that they have a bond or association of some sort with others who do the same and believe they share something important in common with them. It is not at all clear, however, what this common element is, and the great diversity of tasks that lawyers perform – representing litigants, counseling clients, advising legislators, administering government programs, and deciding cases – can easily make one doubt whether the search for a link leads to anything but empty generalities. One may, of course, conclude that the main law jobs, as Karl Llewellyn called them, have nothing important in common, and that the legal profession is only a name for a disconnected collection of pursuits with no substance or reality of its own. This is not, however, a very satisfying view, to lawyers at least, and is likely to provoke the quick reply that what lawyers share in common is after all quite easy to discern. All lawyers, regardless of the nature of their work, possess a general knowledge of the law which they have acquired through a specialized program of instruction; laypersons lack such knowledge and it is this, one might argue, which marks the line between those who are lawyers and those who are not and, thus, defines the scope and nature of the profession
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DOI 10.1017/s0265052500000480
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