Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2008


This brief essay highlights three of Marc Galanter's works to illustrate qualities that seem especially worth emulating. Galanter's classic article, Why the “Haves” Come Out Ahead: Speculations on the Limits of Legal Change, focuses on how the legal system actually operates in daily life and challenges a conventional wisdom that simply providing have-nots with more lawyers would substantially reduce inequality. The article is particularly relevant to the dispute resolution field, focusing on the vast majority of legally-oriented behavior that occurs outside of court. It distinguishes truly private dispute resolution (such as self-help, withdrawal from relationships, and intra-group processes) from settlement systems that are oriented or “appended” to official legal institutions.Galanter’s article, Case Congregations and Their Careers, categorizes numerous factors affecting the evolution of “congregations” of related cases. “Endogenous” changes originate within case congregations (such as prevention of future harm and changes in legal regimes and recordkeeping practices). “Holistic” effects result from actors treating cases as part of a set of cases rather than as independent units. “Career” effects include anticipation about how early cases will affect later cases, coordination between lawyers, and “depletion” of readily actionable cases. Galanter argues that “[l]aw, lawyers, parties, audiences, practices, institutions, outcomes, stakes, expectations, discourse, meanings . . . may undergo change as one of these congregations runs its course.”Galanter's book, Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture, is the culmination of much of his work on American law. His comprehensive analysis of lawyer jokes shows that they reflect a deep American ambivalence about the law and lawyers. He sorts the jokes into two “waves”: an enduring core of topics and themes and new themes that have “flourished”since 1980. Using the jokes and other data, he argues that, in recent decades, social and business elites have cultivated a “jaundiced view” of the legal system.This article is a part of a symposium focusing on the impact of Galanter’s scholarship on the next generation of scholars. As a former student of his, I illustrate how his work influenced my scholarship.



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