Chapter 7: Professionalism
This chapter shows how the core value of professionalism has been used to justify North American legal services regulation. Drawing on functionalist sociology, the theory holds that lawyers, like doctors and some other skilled workers, are professionals who collectively constitute a profession. True professionals are distinguished from businesspeople by their altruism and by their esoteric and socially useful expertise. The theory holds that, because of these special characteristics, traditional professional self-regulation is able to faithfully and efficiently serve the public interest in an arrangement secured by a social contract. Finally, because they are corps intermédiaires between the public and the state, self-regulating professions are also said to play a salutary role in social cohesion. This chapter explores these aspects of the professionalism public interest theory in turn. The author's conclusion is that, while the business/profession dichotomy and social contract ideas are unsupportable, other parts of the theory cannot be so quickly dismissed. Practitioner altruism and service orientation are genuine and valuable phenomena which regulators must strive to foster. Self-regulation has plausible advantages over co-regulation in so doing, in addition to other potential advantages. ‘Professionalism’ is ubiquitous in the North American legal literature. The word appears in the titles of dozens of law review articles every year. It can signify a set of personal values,a social phenomenon observable in work organization,or a work identity espoused by certain people.
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