Jane is meeting with her lawyer Peter. She has been complaining bitterly about a restraining order obtained ex parte by the lawyer for her husband Norb. The order bars her from entering the home that she still owns jointly with Norb and that Norb has continued to live in. She moved out voluntarily, as a gesture of good will, a short while before only to have her husband's lawyer run to court and secure the order she abhors. Readers first met Jane back in 1986 when Austin Sarat and William Felstiner published the first article growing out of their massive project to observe the meetings between divorce lawyers and their clients in the lawyers' offices. That article and the three that followed have now been expanded into Divorce Lawyers and Their Clients: Power and Meaning in the Legal Process. The originality of this research and its promise for future scholarship by others has determined the shape of the essay that follows. I begin by tracing briefly what the authors found as they listened to the conversations of the divorce lawyers and their clients. Then, because Sarat and Felstiner tell us so little in their book (or in any of the articles that preceded it) about their research design or methods, the next section reports on interviews I conducted with the authors. I focus on methodology in part to convey the scale of their achievement and in part to inform others who may be attracted (and ought to be attracted) to such research. Then in the final parts of the essay, I ruminate on what we know and do not know on the basis of this research and on some limits of their findings. Twenty-five lawyers, forty clients: so much learned, so much left to learn.
Chambers, David L. "25 Divorce Attorneys and 40 Clients in Two Not So Big but Not So Small Cities in Massachusetts and California: An Appreciation." Review of Divorce Lawyers and Their Clients: Power and Meaning in the Legal Process, by A. Sarat and W. L. F. Felstiner. Law & Soc. Inquiry 22, no. 1 (1997): 209-30.