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From Patrician to Professional Elite

From Patrician to Professional Elite

Copyright Date: 1988
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    From Patrician to Professional Elite
    Book Description:

    The Association of the Bar of the City of New York (ABCNY) is no ordinary professional organization. Formed in 1870 and housed in an imposing mid-town edifice, it was the first modern bar association, nationally known for its eminent membership, its reformist stance-and its intimidating selectivity. During much of its history, the ABCNY appeared to be more an upper-class, WASP legal club than an open, collegial association.

    How did such an organization fare in the face of post-war pressures for inclusiveness?From Patrician to Professional Eliteoffers a rare view of the internal dynamics of an institution adapting to a changed environment. The ABCNY maintained its elite identity by adopting a meritocratic organizational model in place of a class-based model. By shedding its overt exclusivity, the ABCNY asserted its legitimacy; by embracing an "open elite" or meritocratic model, the associate retained its high standing and relative homogeneity. In fact, the ABCNY today is dominated by the same functional group of lawyers as before, the corporate legal elite.

    This fascinating study of organizational change prompts a re-examination of fundamental questions about the class basis of modern professionalism and the dominance of elites within professions, in addition to illuminating the larger question of the role of elite institutions in democratic societies.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-455-2
    Subjects: Law, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xxvi)

    The Association of the Bar of the City of New York (ABCNY) is not an ordinary bar association. That is immediately apparent to those who enter its doors on West 44th Street in midtown Manhattan. Completed in 1896, and listed as one of New York’s historic buildings, the “house” of the ABCNY, as it is affectionately referred to by its members, is an impressive edifice. Built in the grand Victorian manner, it has a cavernous entrance hall or foyer, flanked by imposing marble columns and surrounded by tastefully decorated reading rooms. The foyer leads to a wide marble staircase. Upstairs...

  7. PART ONE: Patrician Professionalism

    • Chapter One Urban Reform, Patrician Professionalism, and Social Control
      (pp. 3-44)

      In the latter half of the nineteenth century a new American establishment was forged from the union of the old colonial upper class and the new families of wealth spawned by the industrial age.¹ Whereas the old upper class was essentially defined by lineage and, particularly in the South, ownership of large estates, the new upper class was based upon the possession of wealth as it was accumulated by the great industrialists and financiers of the nineteenth century. Parvenu families such as the Carnegies and the Rockefellers, the Mellons and the Vanderbilts, were quickly accepted and incorporated into this new...

  8. PART TWO: Environmental Change and Organizational Adaptation

    • Chapter Two Broadening the Bases of Membership
      (pp. 47-86)

      When World War II ended, the ABCNY remained an exclusive patrician association including a minority of New York lawyers as members. In the postwar decades, however, there were substantial changes in the ABCNY’s professional and normative context that were to result in the relaxation of its membership policy and increased heterogeneity in its composition. In the first place, the demography of the profession itself changed significantly, undergoing a growth spurt in the years immediately after the war and then experiencing sustained and substantial expansion from the mid-1960s. Indeed, between 1960 and 1980 the total number of lawyers in the United...

    • Chapter Three The Politics of Organizational Change
      (pp. 87-114)

      Although the ABCNY did not become a mass-based professional association in the postwar decades, it did experience rapid growth with an influx of members with more diverse ascribed characteristics than in the past. An organizational structure designed for a homogeneous membership, assuming substantial value consensus and behavioral congruence, may not serve so well once the membership has become more heterogeneous. Greater heterogeneity brings with it the potential of increased intraorganizational conflict as members with different social backgrounds and values cannot be expected to share the same policy positions. Furthermore, segments of the population that had been historically excluded from male...

    • Chapter Four Managing Diversity and Dissensus
      (pp. 115-138)

      Increased membership diversity resulted in a higher level of dissensus in the ABCNY than in the past. In particular, the existence of generational differences in values and expectations as to the functions of bar associations became particularly pertinent in the late 1960s and early 1970s with age-specific social movements heightening intergenerational conflicts. Similarly, the belated admission to the ABCNY of previously excluded elements of the bar, such as women and ethnic minorities, also increased the diversity of viewpoints and ideologies represented. Jews have traditionally been Democrats and strong supporters of the extension of civil rights to all members of the...

  9. PART THREE: Regulating the Profession and Reforming the Legal System

    • Chapter Five The Moral Authority of the Professional Elite
      (pp. 141-176)

      Commenting on the condition of the legal profession in the middle of the nineteenth century, Roscoe Pound observed that it was “not so much a Bar, but so many hundred or so many thousand lawyers, each a law unto himself.”¹ With admission to the bar open to “all men of good character,” and the absence of any accepted standards of professional conduct, the “professional idea” was at its nadir at this time. Crucial to the revival of professionalism, according to Pound, was the emergence of organizations of lawyers to set standards for entry into the bar and to regulate the...

    • Chapter Six Legal Change and Professional Influence: Assets and Liabilities of Elite Organization
      (pp. 177-222)

      Whereas the ABCNY remained an elite and unrepresentative legal association at the end of the 1950s, other metropolitan bar associations, such as the CBA, had adopted an inclusive mass-membership model of organization in the interwar years because of the putative advantages of size and representativeness. Leaders of the integrated bar movement argued vigorously that there were advantages to inclusivity, including greater financial resources and increased legitimacy as representative associations.¹ Furthermore, inclusive associations should be better able to influence external authorities such as legislatures on matters of particular concern to the bar. From this perspective, remaining a minority exclusive organization had...

  10. PART FOUR: Conclusion

    • Chapter Seven Elite Professionalism in Modern Society: Its Persistence and Its Limits
      (pp. 225-250)

      Following his visit to the United States in the early nineteenth century, Alexis de Tocqueville projected that lawyers and judges would come to constitute the aristocracy of the new world.¹ Viewing lawyers and judges as inherently conservative and antidemocratic in their commitment to the rule of law, Tocqueville anticipated that the members of the new aristocracy would defend order against change, thereby limiting the negative consequences of excessive democratization. Clearly Tocqueville was not referring to all lawyers and judges, but rather to an elite segment of the bench and bar represented by figures such as Boston’s Daniel Webster, who capped...

  11. Index
    (pp. 251-269)