Golem, 'Gollum', Gone: The Lost Honor of the Legal Profession
legal profession, lawyers, loss of professionalism, private practice, law firms, noble profession, dishonorable profession, client loyalty, legal ethics, advocate, overbilling of legal fees, churning, fee abuse, clients as commodities, avarice, reforming lawyer regulation
The golem is the mud and stick figure of folklore created to protect Jews from the abuses of Hungarian society in the 16th Century. But ultimately the powerful creature had to be destroyed because it lacked a soul and had no moral core to regulate its behavior and became a danger to those it was constructed to protect. As the members of the legal profession increasingly abandon the anchoring moral principles of justice, fairness and client loyalty in pursuit of the golden ring of financial rewards, power and self-aggrandizement they have become little more than golem, powerful but soulless creatures without any sense of principle and honor. The preservation of the profession’s anchoring principles is far more important than could ever be conceived by those who treat the practice of law as nothing more than another free market business activity. It is those principles that provide the foundation for a system of professional honor without which a professional is no more than a guild designed to preserve its power and profits while hiding behind deceptions and arcane mysteries like the Wizard of Oz. The analysis in this essay is about lawyers and their moral and ethical fall from grace and abandonment of the sole justification for the privileges they have been traditionally accorded. If that is in fact all private lawyers engaged in the practice of law for profit are then there is no honor in service to clients or the Rule of Law and therefore no justification for special treatment of the legal profession. Without honor there is no valid reason to allow the organized bar and judiciary to set the rules of behavior and sanction under which they function because, after all, they are self-interested institutions who have been establishing for themselves the terms of operation and potential liability for misconduct.
David R. Barnhizer, Golem, 'Gollum', Gone: The Lost Honor of the Legal Profession, SSRN Cleveland-Marshall Legal Studies Paper No. 11-203 (January 3, 2011)