Lawyers for Conservative Causes: Clients, Ideology, and Social Distance (WP-02-23)


IPR-WP-02-23

John P. Heinz, Anthony Paik, and Ann Southworth

Scholars have devoted attention to “cause lawyers” on the political Left, but relatively little to lawyers who work on the conservative side of the American political spectrum. This paper presents data on the characteristics of and relationships among lawyers affiliated with organizations active on a set of 17 conservative issues. We find that the lawyers serve separate and distinct constituencies — business conservatives, Christian conservatives, libertarians, abortion opponents, etc. — and that the attributes of the lawyers serving these constituencies differ significantly. The greatest social separation occurs between the business interests and the abortion opponents, with another clear separation between libertarians and the organizations devoted to traditional family values and order maintenance. These divisions appear to reflect the difference between “insider politics” and “populism,” which is manifested in part in actual geographic separation between lawyers located in the District of Columbia and those in the South, West, and Midwest. In the center of the network, however, we find some potential “mediators” — prominent lawyers who may facilitate communication and coordination among the several constituencies. These lawyers and the organizations they serve attempt to bridge the constituencies concerned with morality, market freedom, and individual liberty, and they convene meetings of diverse sets of lawyers and organizational leaders to seek consensus on policy goals. Nonetheless, the findings indicate that most organizations are seldom active on issues that lie beyond the relatively narrow boundaries of their own interests. When fundamental interests conflict, lawyers appear unlikely to overcome the divisions among their clients.

John P. Heinz, School of Law, Northwestern University
Anthony Paik, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago
Ann Southworth, Case Western Reserve University School of Law