How Lawyers Lose Their Way

A Profession Fails Its Creative Minds

How Lawyers Lose Their Way

Book Pages: 152 Illustrations: 2 b&w photos Published: January 2005


In this penetrating book, Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado use historical investigation and critical analysis to diagnose the cause of the pervasive unhappiness among practicing lawyers. Most previous writers have blamed the high rate of burnout, depression, divorce, and drug and alcohol dependency among these highly paid professionals on the narrow specialization, long hours, and intense pressures of modern legal practice. Stefancic and Delgado argue that these professional demands are only symptoms of a deeper problem: the way lawyers are taught to think and reason. They show how legal education and practice have been rendered arid and dull by formalism, a way of thinking that values precedent and doctrine above all, exalting consistency over ambiguity, rationality over emotion, and rules over social context and narrative.

Stefancic and Delgado dramatize the plight of modern lawyers by exploring the unlikely friendship between Archibald MacLeish, who gave up a successful but unsatisfying law career to pursue his literary yearnings, and Ezra Pound. Reading the forty-year correspondence between MacLeish and Pound, Stefancic and Delgado draw lessons about the difficulties of attorneys trapped in worlds that give them power, prestige, and affluence but not personal satisfaction, much less creative fulfillment. Long after Pound had embraced fascism, descended into lunacy, and been institutionalized, MacLeish took up his old mentor’s cause, turning his own lack of fulfillment with the law into a meaningful crusade and ultimately securing Pound’s release from St. Elizabeths Hospital. Drawing on MacLeish’s story, Stefancic and Delgado contend that literature, public interest work, and critical legal theory offer tools to contemporary attorneys for finding meaning and overcoming professional dissatisfaction.


“The way in which Professors Stefancic and Delgado approach the problem of lawyer misery is certainly intriguing and has merit. By framing their thesis around the story of the lives and work of Pound and MacLeish, Professors Stefancic and Delgado open yet another window into an important subject and pose a question that will likely resonate with many frustrated humanists who also happen to practice law.” — Theresa M Beiner, Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics

"[How Lawyers Lose Their Way] is particularly well and entertainingly written: the narrative of Pound’s and MacLeish’s relationship is as fascinating as the discussion of formalism is enlightening. The book certainly belongs on all legal academic library shelves, and quite honestly, belongs on the shelves of most attorneys I know." — Brian Flaherty, Bimonthly Review of Law Books

"[E]xcellent, nuanced accounts of the conflicted lives of high level lawyers. . . . [It does] much to advance our understanding of the stress and ethical conflicts confronting successful corporate lawyers." — Michael Rustad, University of Illinois Law Review

"[P]rovocative. . . . Recommended." — M.W. Bowers, Choice

"Part I makes an original and engaging move, a dual biography about the interwoven lives of Archibald MacLeish and Ezra Pound. . . . I would not be surprised to find this book in many undergraduate and law school courses. For a course on legal practice its value is easy. For an undergraduate judicial process course, it has the advantages of brevity, affordability, and a human interest. If you teach 'black letter' formalism as a competing theory to behavioral and institutional models of judicial decision-making, and if you also include a unit on the legal profession in your course, this book neatly bridges those topics in intriguing ways. The problems of lawyers are laid out in depressing detail, and this critical perspective will generate much thought." — Patrick Schmidt, Law and Politics Book Review

"This is a highly worthwhile and creative book, one that goes well beyond the usual analysis of what has gone wrong with the legal profession." — Steven Keeva, ABAJournal

"This small book . . . is important because it treats one subject that is vital to all readers of this journal." — Ronald Goldfarb, Washington Lawyer

“Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado offer an innovative approach to integrating a great career in the law with an examined, moral life. The authors make profound connections between law and literature, scholarship and practice, and the personal and the political. The book is an exciting combination of a self-help manual and cutting-edge scholarship. Stefancic and Delgado write with the insight and creativity that they will certainly inspire in lawyers and others who choose careers hoping both to live well and to do some good in this world.” — Paul Butler, George Washington University Law School

“Through the correspondence between the poet-lawyer-statesman Archibald MacLeish and the poet–modernist master Ezra Pound, Jean Stefancic and Richard Delgado brilliantly give expression to one of American law’s central metaphors: our lawyers who have lost their way.” — Lawrence Joseph, St. John’s University School of Law and author of Before Our Eyes, a book of poetry


Availability: In stock
Price: $23.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jean Stefancic is Research Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where both are Derrick Bell Fellows. Stefancic and Richard Delgado have written and edited numerous books together, including Understanding Words that Wound, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, and No Mercy: How Conservative Think Tanks and Foundations Changed America’s Social Agenda.

Richard Delgado is Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where both are Derrick Bell Fellows. Among Delgado’s books are When Equality Ends: Stories about Race and Resistance and The Rodrigo Chronicles: Conversations about America and Race, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgements ix

Introduction: Why Are Lawyers So Unhappy? xi

Part I: Panthers and Pinstripes 3

1. The Caged Panther: Ezra Pound 5

2. Pinstripes: Archibald MacLeish 12

Part II: Discontents 31

3. Formalism: A New/Old Disease 33

4. Lawyers and Their Discontents 47

5. Lawyers’ Lives 62

6. Other Professions: Medicine 72

7. High-Paid Misery 77

Notes 87

Index 135
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3563-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3454-5
Publicity material