Sol M. Linowitz died on Friday, March 18, 2005. Others will remember him as a superb diplomat, public servant, and businessman. I want to to make sure he is remembered as a lawyer who was greatly troubled over the state of his profession, despite having reached its pinnacle as general counsel of Xerox Corp. and then senior partner of Coudert Brothers. (See msn.com, “Diplomat, businessman Sol Linowitz dies at 91,” March 18, 2005)
Sol Linowitz spent much of his last two decades calling for a reformation that would give the legal profession back its soul, integrity and respect. At the age of 80, Linowitz wrote The Betrayed Profession (with Martin Mayer,1994). A Publisher’s Weekly description of the book states:
“Profoundly perturbed by what he considers the degeneration of the legal profession that has accompanied its growth and specialization in the last 50 years, Linowitz, a Washington,D.C., attorney who has served three administrations, forcefully pleads for reform. He denounces huge law firms where “rainmakers”–partners whose clients are responsible for the highest revenues–are given special status; he decries lawyers whose principal goals are to protect and increase corporate gains. . . Linowitz charges that the legal profession is abandoning its duty to defend the Constitution and Bill of
Rights in order to practice law as a business, which threatens the liberties of all.
In a positive summation, Linowitz advocates specific means by which judges, lawyers and society can help to restore integrity and public trust to the profession.
. Asked in a DC Bar Interview, “Betrayed by whom?” Linowitz responded:
“Betrayed by us, by the lawyers. We inherited a noble profession, and to the extent that we have transformed it into a huckstering business operation we have betrayed our calling. We are supposed to be members of a learned society of professionals bound by ethical standards, morals, and manners.’ (D.C.Bar Report, “Legends in the Law,” Aug-Sept 1995)
Alhough I never met Sol Linowitz, I have long felt a special bond with him. In 1988, in the same month that I left my antitrust practice to work as a children’s lawyer and divorce mediator, Linowitz had an article in the Washington Post that touched me deeply — it said many things that I had felt about the profession but had not yet found words to describe. I cut out that op-ed piece from the Post, saved it in a file cabinet, and have read it often over the past 17 years. Because it isn’t otherwise available on the internet, I have posted “Why America Hates Lawyers: We Attorneys Need to Show We Value People, Not Profits” (May 15, 1988) here, complete with my initial marks circling two key paragraphs.
In Why America Hates Lawyers, Sol Linowitz decries “a dehumanization of the law accompanied by a widespread distrust of lawyers.” He noted that an ABA Commission had called upon the bar to pursue principle over profit and professionalism over commercialism, but it “did not make clear how this is to be kindled.” Always striving to offer solutions for problems, Linowitz’s proposal for a good place to start is for the profession to provide “the vision of a society where we all stand equal before the law.” Linowitz was “not talking about legislating equality.” Instead, he urged that lawyers help to improve access to the law:
“The task is to create a better, equally inexpensive analogue to small-claims procedures that would resolve quickly and fairly the disputes ordinary people need resolved — winnowing out for further process those issues of the broadest scope or significance.
“In short, we as lawyers must be able to say that our concern is with the human and humane — that we accept our obligation to serve all people in our society —
that we are truly committed to the principle of equality of access to the law. In achieving this, we will as lawyers find we have earned and won the respect and
gratitude of those we seek to serve.”
It’s sad, but a Library Review comment on The Betrayed Profession concludes: “It is not clear whether those addressed by Linowitz feel motivated to make the changes he suggests; in a sense, his voice is a cry in the wilderness. For legal ethics collections only.” Let’s prove that cynic wrong — not just for Sol Linowitz, but for our profession and our nation.
Thank you, Sol Linowitz, for loving the legal profession enough to speak frankly of its deep flaws and of the major changes needed to correct them..