The law is the cornerstone of our society, one of the pillars of civilization, the very “witness … of our moral life.” In the words of former Chief Justice Earl Warren, “[t]he greatest issue before the world today is law.” He continued: “But throughout history, and never more than in our own day, the great question has been whether that law was to be compatible with the basic instinct of all human beings for freedom, for opportunity, for dignity and for peace.” At a time when the challenge to realize this essential congruity has never been more pronounced, the soul of the law is suffering. Studies document that, more than ever before, there is an extraordinary decline in civility among lawyers. Other symptoms of institutional distress include the languid condition of ethics and professional responsibility, and the increasingly contentious, win-at-all-cost battles fought in courtrooms, boardrooms, and even within law firms. Well-established firms are disintegrating as long-forged alliances and loyalties yield to individual interests, which are often associated with profit motives. Backlogged dockets render “swift justice” an oxymoron. Meanwhile, public leaders and commentators warn that there are too many lawyers, and that we are suing ourselves into economic and institutional disaster. The individual lawyer is also showing symptoms of considerable malaise. A poll of more than one hundred occupations placed attorneys “first on the list in experiencing depression.” Studies conducted nationwide reveal that at least one-third of all attorneys suffer from either depression or substance abuse. Alcohol or drug abuse is so pervasive that attorney disciplinary groups estimate that substance abuse accounts for or is implicated in upwards of seventy percent of all proceedings brought against lawyers. To put it simply, many lawyers are miserable.
Paula A. Franzese,
To Be the Change: Finding Higher Ground in the Law,
Me. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.mainelaw.maine.edu/mlr/vol50/iss1/3