Vol. 14, No. 5, Pg. 22. The Chief Justice's Commission on the Profession.

AuthorBy Justice lames E. Moore and Rachel loan Beckford

South Carolina Lawyer


Vol. 14, No. 5, Pg. 22.

The Chief Justice's Commission on the Profession

22The Chief Justice's Commission on the ProfessionBy Justice lames E. Moore and Rachel loan BeckfordIn the introduction to its final report to the Chief Judge of New York, the Committee on the Profession and the Courts states:

The late 1980s and early 1990s witnessed a conspicuous rise in public disparagement of lawyers and the judicial process. The diminished respect for the profession expressed itself in sour humor, opinion polls, editorial columns and in some reflective commentary. This was not an entirely new phenomenon; American lawyers, like their English forebears, had for centuries been vulnerable to periodic bouts of public disdain.

Committee on the Profession and the Courts, Final Report to the Chief Judge, November 1995. Bryan A. Garner, in his A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage, (2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 1995), at 509, includes a listing for "Lawyer, Derogatory Names For." Many of the names date to the 16th Century.

2324In addition to the public perception of lawyers, leading members of the Bar have raised concerns that law schools' educational programs do not produce graduates who "really know how to practice law." These successful lawyers, who most likely received essentially the same legal education as current graduates, if not a less diverse education than is now offered, appear to want to be able to hire associates who are professional, competent in the technical aspects of the practice of law, and have the same ability to practice law as someone who has been doing so for a number of years. These lawyers were probably the recipients of close mentoring and/or monitoring by older experienced lawyers in the days when law firms were smaller or many lawyers began solo practices in small legal communities where experienced lawyers were available, and perhaps anxious, to provide guidance to newly admitted attorneys.

The late Roscoe Pound, Dean Emeritus of Harvard Law School, gave a description of a profession as referring:

to a group of men pursuing a learned art as a common calling in the spirit of a public service --no less a public service because it may incidentally be a means of livelihood. Pursuit of the learned art in the spirit of public service is the primary purpose. Gaining a livelihood is incidental . . . .

Roscoe Pound, The Lawyer from Antiquity to Modern Times, (West Publishing, 1953), at 5. Interestingly, A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage also reveals a definite incongruity in the public perception of lawyers. Garner, at 509. Polls show lawyers are held in low esteem, yet parents prefer their children to become lawyers, as opposed to engaging in other careers. Perhaps this is because parents see gaining a livelihood as primary. The responsibility for ensuring Pound's definition of a profession becomes a reality, as it relates to lawyers, is the responsibility of law schools, members of the Bar, judges, and the Judicial Department.

With the establishment of Rule 420, SCACR, the Chief Justice's Commission on the Profession, the South Carolina Supreme Court committed to improving the practice of law in South Carolina, enhancing the reputation of the profession, and establishing a continuing body to monitor progress in achieving these goals. Although Pound's reference to a profession as being composed of men is obviously no longer the case, the Commission hopes to be able to educate all members of the Bar, and the public, that practicing law is indeed a profession concerned with improving the justice system for all participants.


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