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The Lawyer’s Myth

Reviving Ideals in the Legal Profession

Lawyers today are in a moral crisis. The popular perception of the lawyer, both within the legal community and beyond, is no longer the Abe Lincoln of American mythology, but is often a greedy, cynical manipulator of access and power. In The Lawyer’s Myth, Walter Bennett goes beyond the caricatures to explore the deeper causes of why lawyers are losing their profession and what it will take to bring it back.

Bennett draws on his experience as a lawyer, judge, and law teacher, as well as upon oral histories of lawyers and judges, in his exploration of how and why the legal profession has lost its ennobling mythology. Effectively using examples from history, philosophy, psychology, mythology, and literature, Bennett shows that the loss of professionalism is more than merely the emergence of win-at-all-cost strategies and a scramble for personal wealth. It is something more profound—a loss of professional community and soul. Bennett identifies the old heroic myths of American lawyers and shows how they informed the values of professionalism through the middle of the last century. He shows why, in our more diverse society, those myths are inadequate guides for today’s lawyers. And he also discusses the profession’s agony over its trickster image and demonstrates how that archetype is not only a psychological reality, but a necessary component of a vibrant professional mythology for lawyers.

At the heart of Bennett’s eloquently written book is a call to reinvigorate the legal professional community. To do this, lawyers must revive their creative capacities and develop a meaningful, professional mythology—one based on a deeper understanding of professionalism and a broader, more compassionate ideal of justice.

251 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2001

Law and Legal Studies: General Legal Studies, Law and Society

Table of Contents



1 The Professional Wound

2 The Dark Landscape of the Profession: The Legal Academy
and the Loss of Ideals

3 The Profession and the Loss of Professional Mythology

4 The Mythological Function of the Lost Ideals

5 The Negative Archetype in Professional Mythology

6 Professional Mythology and the Loss of Community

7 Why the Profession Should Be Saved

8 A Preface to New Ideals: Coming to Terms with the Historical
Masculinity of the Profession

9 Realizing the Feminine in Lawyers’ Work:
Conceiving a New Ideal of Power

10 Beginning the Lawyer’s Inner Journey: New Models and Heros

11 Something Greater than Oneself: Envisioning a New New Ideal,
Understanding Lawyers’ Faith

12 Pursuing the Lawyers’ Faith: Reconvening the Campfire,
Creating Storytelling Models for a Broader Ideal of Justice

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