Document Type



Law as a Process of Decision: A Policy-Oriented Approach to Legal Study, 1 Natural Law Forum 53 (1956)


It may be seen, if we address ourselves to certain fundamentals, that those who are just beginning the study of law and those who are in mid-passage, or growing old, share a common, continuous responsibility for achieving conceptions of law and of legal study adequate to the crises of our time.

For appropriate perspective, let us first reflect for a moment upon the social role of the legal profession. Perhaps the best way in brief to describe the distinctive role of the lawyer is to say that he is an especially skilled expert in the use of authoritative language and authoritative procedures for affecting or influencing decisions. Some freshman law students will, thus, if they follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, themselves become government officials, making decisions in the name of authoritative community expectation and with community coercion behind them. They will, for example, become senators, congressmen, governors, mayors, judges, aldermen, state representatives, delegates to the United Nations, and so on. Others will become the counsellors and advocates, in large and small affairs, of the individuals and groups who seek decisions from such officials. They will become counsel to private business associations, to labor unions, to churches and schools, to political parties and pressure groups, and, in the sum, to all the institutions of our organized community life. Some fifteen years ago Professor Lasswell and I summarized as follows:

It should need no emphasis that the lawyer is today, even when not himself a "maker" of policy, the one indispensable adviser of every responsible policy-maker in our society—whether we speak of a government department or agency, of the executive of a corporation or labor union, of the secretary of a trade or other private association, or even of the humble independent enterpriser or professional man. . . . Certainly it would be difficult to exaggerate either the direct or indirect influence that members of the legal profession exert on the public life of this nation. For better or worse our decision-makers and our lawyers are bound together in a relation of dependence or of identity.

Date of Authorship for this Version


Included in

Law Commons