[Ann Southworth, guest-blogging, January 27, 2009 at 6:31pm] Trackbacks
Divided Constituencies and Their Lawyers:

I devote two chapters of the book (3 & 4) to exploring differences among lawyers for the different constituencies. One chapter focuses on social background and values, and the other considers professional identity. It is difficult to summarize those chapters; they draw heavily from qualitative interview data to develop group portraits. But a few additional details might help answer some of the excellent comments I've received thus far -- without, I hope, dampening readers' willingness to delve into the book.

The suggestion that the lawyers I interviewed must work in Washington, D.C. is (roughly) half true. Thirty-four of the 72 interviewed lawyers worked in D.C. and D.C. suburbs, while 38 worked elsewhere. The geographic distribution of lawyers varied by constituency. Especially striking was that very few of the lawyers for social conservative organizations worked in D.C. Instead, they were heavily concentrated in the Southeast, Midwest and West, with many of them working outside of major metropolitan areas. Advocates for libertarian groups were mostly in D.C. and the West. All but a few of the lawyers for mediator groups and business organizations worked in major metropolitan areas — most of them in D.C.

There were also notable differences in the credentials held by these lawyers. The religious conservatives and abortion opponents were much more likely than lawyers for other constituencies to have attended religiously affiliated schools and less likely to have gone to schools ranked in the top twenty in the 2000U.S. News& World Report rankings. At the other end of the spectrum were lawyers for the mediator organizations, almost all of whom had attended top 20 law schools — mostly very elite ones. The educational backgrounds of the lawyers for libertarian and business organizations were more varied.

The book also includes an analysis of foundation funding for the organizations served by the interviewed lawyers. I found that the organizations drew systematically from different sources of foundation funding, suggesting that the institutional patrons of conservative advocacy organizations are divided by constituency, just as the lawyers are. For example, there was no overlap among the top five foundation supporters of religious and pro-life groups on the one hand and business and libertarian groups on the other. Differences in the foundations' causes, in turn, reflected pronounced differences in the commitments of the founders and/or current administrators of the foundations, as reflected in the foundations' mission statements. By far the largest amount of foundation funding went to the mediator organizations, and the patrons of these groups were ideologically mixed.

Another chapter of the book (5) identifies factors that might provide bases for understanding and perhaps cooperation among lawyers for the different constituencies: generational effects, shared disapproval of liberals, overlapping policy agendas, a common interest in remaking the judiciary, the Republican Party, shared professional status, and perceived disadvantage in the legal establishment. But I conclude that none of these elements of common ground is sufficient, independently or in combination, to overcome the differences in ideology and values documented in previous chapters.

The especially elite and prominent lawyers working for mediator organizations, and the disproportionate amount of foundation money invested in those groups, suggest that they deserve a close look as possible sources of glue among lawyers for the different constituencies. I devote a whole chapter to these organizations, and I will focus on them in my next post.

P.S. The "order maintenance" label refers to several organizations that did not fall into the other categories and that seemed to share a focus on social order -- on issues such as criminal law, immigration, and promoting the use of the English language. I interviewed just four lawyers who worked for organizations in this category. My previous description of this group prompted a comment asking whether I was suggesting that these advocates were major players in the culture wars. They clearly were not. I believe that the book is clear on this point, but my first post was not.