Category talk:American lawyers

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Category definition[edit]

The name of the category together with the restricting paragraph, they both suck. They really do suck. Instead of creating such a counter-intuitive paragraph, why on Earth don't you create a subcategory named "American practicing lawyers"? Shaquille O'Neal is also a lawyer, for heaven's sake. If you remove Shaquille O'Neal, why don't you remove James Cramer? He's not a practicing lawyer either, but you don't know it, because the combination of category name and "explanatory" paragraph is counter-intuitive and relatively unpredictable and sucks. The paragraph sucks.

It's the name of the category that should tell editors what to include in the category, and not a paragraph. I hate it when a paragraph tells me how to interpret the name of the category. The name of the category should be intuitive and simple. If you call the category "American lawyers", it should also be for non-practicing lawyers.

My proposal: as stated above, create a category called "American practicing lawyers" and remove that counter-intuitive paragraph. I hate having to read a paragraph to know what the category "is for", as it says there. That's why we have subcategories, so we can exclude other articles that belong to the main category. The paragraph sucks.

"[M]ost obvious". What the hell is that all about? It's not obvious at all. It says that the connotation "American practicing lawyers" is the "most obvious connotation of the word". That's garbage. It's not obvious. To me, a lawyer is a lawyer, whether practicing or not. "Obvious"? Where's the obviousness in that? The name of the category should not be about connotations. It should be intuitive. It's the name of the category that should be "obvious", and not a connotation that's supposed to be obvious but, in reality, is not.

"This category is for" and "this category is reserved for"? I hate it when a paragraph tells me what to exclude, and that the category is "reserved". Jesus.

"[F]or proper application"? Now you're gonna tell what's proper? If I say that Shaquille O'Neal is an American lawyer, isn't that proper? There's no "proper" subcategory under American lawyers where to include O'Neal, even if he is an "American lawyer", as the category is named. He is not a judge, nor a law professor, nor a legal writer, but he is still an "American lawyer". So, with the restricting paragraph, the whole category sucks. I hate it when a paragraph tells me that my application is not "proper". It puts me in a catch-22. If someone's not a "practicing lawyer", but still a "lawyer", I'm not allowed to categorize him as a lawyer. That's garbage. Absolute and complete and total and utter garbage. 2004-12-29T22:45Z 07:24, July 30, 2005 (UTC)

  • Nope. Shaquille O'Neal is not a lawyer. He has a bachelor's degree in law, but he has never taken a bar examination and has never been a lawyer. Go read Lawyer - it says, "lawyering is traditionally considered to be a learned honorable profession requiring, in most common law countries, at least three years of education beyond a bachelor's degree. The degree earned by lawyers in the United States and many other countries is a J.D. or juris doctor. " He does not have a J.D. Another note about renaming the category to American practicing lawyers - dead lawyers can't practice anymore, and there are some people in American lawyers right now who are very dead. --Idont Havaname 20:16, 1 August 2005 (UTC)

What about James Cramer? He's a J.D., but not practicing. Also, if you say "American practicing lawyers", that can also mean lawyers who practiced. And, anyway, after you die, you're not a lawyer anymore. You're just a cadaver instead, but not a lawyer. 2004-12-29T22:45Z 20:23, August 1, 2005 (UTC)

    • It is our custom to allow people who used to fit in a category to remain in their appropriate categories. If somebody used to be X, then they are still in the category for X. We don't take a broken-up band like The Beatles out of Category:British musical groups because they broke up, or Alex Rodriguez out of Category:Seattle Mariners players because he's on the Yankees now, or an ex-President such as George Washington out of Category:Presidents of the United States because he's dead and no longer President. Historical interests allow (and I'd say compel) us to keep them in those categories. As for James Cramer, that's more of a gray-area situation, since he has a JD but doesn't appear to be on the bar. I'm not much of a law expert; I'll find somebody who is and ask for their opinion on this matter. --Idont Havaname 20:52, 1 August 2005 (UTC)
I don't think you'll find a clear consensus for some cases. When I was in law school, some of my professors considered themselves lawyers (law degree, current bar admission) and some didn't (not practicing law). JamesMLane 13:08, 5 August 2005 (UTC)
For those cases, should we include somebody in the category if they have a law degree and considers themselves to be a lawyer? (We would need some media source to determine that, wherein they say they are a lawyer and/or are described as such.) --Idont Havaname 19:58, 6 August 2005 (UTC)
For the vast majority of them, this information wouldn't be available. Stephen Gillers, a professor at NYU, is one of the most frequently quoted legal experts in the country, and on top of that I've met him and discussed a case with him, yet I have no idea whether he considers himself a lawyer. I think you're just gonna have to fish or cut bait on the professors, as a class. Postdlf's point that they could be lumped into Category:Law professors is basically sound, but there are professors like Larry Tribe who spend most of their time as professors but do take on a few high-profile representations. JamesMLane 07:22, 8 August 2005 (UTC)
I think you're missing the point. The category is for American lawyers. If someone is an American law professor and an American lawyer then he or she should be in both. Similarly, Bill Gates is a software tycoon (or whatever category he fits in) and a philanphtorist (and a father etc etc). In another case, (this is a joke so don't take it seriously) Bush is a an American president and he is also a wanker (again this is a joke, don't take it seriously) so he should go in both categories.60.234.141.76 20:27, 3 September 2005 (UTC)

I wrote the limiting paragraph and continue to believe it is appropriate because it not only reflects what should be common sense about all subcategories by profession but it also points out the existence of other, perhaps more appropriate, categories. Occupation subcategories should be limited to those for whom it is actually significant. Someone who never actually had a client isn't really much of a lawyer—what sense does it make to classify them as such? This is particularly true for someone who could better be fit into Category:Law professors or Category:Legal writers, for example. Or, if they've accomplished nothing at all in law but just got the degree for the hell of it, then why the hell should they get a category for it? It sounds more like you want to change this category into Category:People with legal education, which it is not—we do not presently categorize people purely by their degrees or by what they have learned, but only by what they do or have done. Postdlf 04:19, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

Some people with law degrees, like Tony La Russa, aren't involved in the field at all, and clearly shouldn't be listed. But what about someone who practiced for a year or so, hated it, and changed fields? The current wording, using the past tense, would seem to admit that person. Some people have both law and accounting degrees and give clients advice that can't be readily pigeonholed either way. (Some give primarily accounting advice, and the main point of their bar admission is to enable them to argue for confidentiality of the client's communications.) Some corporate CEO's moved up to that position from being General Counsel -- have they stopped being lawyers? For that matter, some might argue that even the GC of a major corporation is more of a business executive than a lawyer. At my old firm, one of the people admitted to the bar was also an information technology expert, and spent most of his time configuring the firm's IT setup -- not directly using his legal knowledge, but able to do his job a lot better because he was (or had been?) a lawyer, and also continuing to spend a small percentage of his time on straightforward client representation. Then there are courts' judicial clerks, staff attorneys, mediators, etc., who might never in their lives have a client, yet would be considered lawyers by many people. I don't really care how any of these cases get resolved, but, if possible, the category's defining language should make their resolution clear. "Bar admission" would be a fairly objective criterion. Unfortunately, there are people who get admitted and never do anything else as lawyers, so including them doesn't seem right. JamesMLane 07:22, 8 August 2005 (UTC)

Nomination for merger/deletion[edit]

The category itself is inherently vague and unnecessary. There is no possible way for anything to list all practicing lawyers, or all American lawyers regardless. There is a constant influx of lawyers who practice law after getting a law degree, and an outflux who die or no longer practice law. Are we to list every single American lawyer ever, from law school professors at obscure colleges to long-dead attorneys from the 19th century? The list would be endless, ridiculously difficult to compile, and impractical. Not to mention that not everyone with a law degree/bar admission practices law, and America has millions of lawyers who practice law in many fields, from corporate law to divorce law to international law. Are we to list all them, too?

I propose Wikipedia create (or if it already exists, merge with) an article of Notable American Lawyers. This category would not include every notable person with a law degree/bar admission, and restrict subjects to those who are icons in the American legal field: Clarence Darrow, Thurgood Marshall, Johnnie Cochran, and the like, while restricting unneccessary politicians and celebrities whose only qualification is they got a law degree. Howard Cosell and Star Jones for example, do NOT belong in this category. This article is impractical and should be removed.--offkilter 22:24, 18 August 2005 (UTC)

    • That's not necessary. Some degree of notability is needed for inclusion in Wikipedia (especially with regards to articles about people), so everyone in the category is notable. Somebody can write an article on Joe Bloggs, who got his law degree at Law School X and is now a public defender at some state court in County Y one year later; such a page would generally be deleted on grounds of vanity/non-notability. Personally, I think that American lawyers should only include Americans who have been practicing lawyers, whether they're living or not. It doesn't make sense to take George Washington out of the category for U.S. presidents just because he's dead, right? --Idont Havaname 02:40, 19 August 2005 (UTC)
    • I proposed deleting it because I think the category is too broad. George Washington belongs in the presidential category as Muhammad Ali belongs in the boxing category. Members of this "American lawyers" group are from such a wide swath of American society that it really isn't much of a category at all. Either this article needs some real work or should be pared and rearranged into separate categories.--Offkilter 08:11, 21 August 2005 (UTC)

This category should not be renamed or deleted. This is one of hundreds (thousands?) of categories deliniating people by occupaction and nationality. See Category:Nationalities by occupation and Category:Occupations by nationality. I can see that there are disputes about this particular category, but it necessary in the general category sorting scheme. Because the category is so large, I would suggest it be sorted into subcategories as much as possible. -- Reinyday, 21:46, 23 August 2005 (UTC)

Over kill[edit]

Is it really necessary to put {{NPOV}} and {{NPOV Check}} and {{dubious}} 5 times in 4 sentences? Though from reading the complaint here I suspct that repition is thought to strengthen a point. In anyevent I was wondering if each use of the dubious template could possibly be accompanied with a specific objection (prefrably without using the word "sucks"). Dalf | Talk 22:15, 15 August 2005 (UTC)


While a renaming of the category to "Noteworthy American Lawyers" or "Notable American Attorneys" is advisable, and a paring down of the list to exclude either unfamiliar or without significant accomplishment, to delete the category entirely is too extreme.

Obviously, the towering figures in the field like Marshall and Darrow belong, but, yes, it is also interesting to note that celebrities who make their name in other fields hold a law degree. Where to draw the line can be up to wikipedians in the usual manner. Coolshoes

Subcategorize the whole thing and solve the problem[edit]

You should subcategorize the whole category. For example, create a subcategory for people who are law bachelors and another one for those who are law doctors. 2004-12-29T22:45Z 23:45, August 23, 2005 (UTC)

And perhaps a category for Judges? Dalf | Talk 18:14, 27 August 2005 (UTC)
Category:American judges and Category:American law professors already exist as a subcat of Category:American jurists. Category:American jurists might also probably be a good place to put people with a law degree that never practiced law than in a subcat of lawyers. --Sherool 23:31, 28 August 2005 (UTC)
"Law bachelors" and "law doctors" are not useful distinctions in the United States. Just about every lawyer in the U.S. is a Juris Doctor; L.L.B.s were already uncommon by the 1930's and the last L.L.B. conferred in the U.S. was in 1965. Prior to the 20th century, most American lawyers didn't have a degree at all but just studied independently before admission to the bar, so their articles wouldn't even be covered by a division based on degrees. Postdlf 05:25, 6 September 2005 (UTC)
Perhaps it could be subcategorized by state--bar admission would make it easy to determine who practiced where. That might be more productive, and make it easily sortable. Meelar (talk) 05:30, September 6, 2005 (UTC)
You can be admitted to more than one state, and you don't actually have to live in the state to be admitted there, so "Lawyers from Maryland," for example, would be misleading because a lawyer admitted in Maryland may be neither from there or even rarely set foot there (because the clients come to him in DC, for example). Presently, most states will waive you in without an additional exam after five years of practice in your original jurisdiction. If this category is to be subcategorized (which I don't particularly see a need for, given the easy alphabetical separation), it should be done in a way that doesn't just add confusing clutter to the bottom of articles, as listing every state that an individual practiced in may do. Postdlf 05:41, 6 September 2005 (UTC)
Thanks for clearing that up, then. Best, Meelar (talk) 05:54, September 6, 2005 (UTC)

Continuing on that theme: should this be separated by state, based on where a lawyer passed the bar? This would separate this over-flooded category a bit. Have Category:Kentucky lawyers and Category:Georgia lawyers. Only list the states where the person passed the bar. Would that work? – Quadell (talk) (bounties) 19:59, 20 January 2006 (UTC)

People frequently take and pass the bar in more than one state, just as they waive into more than one. State boundaries just aren't important enough to classify a profession by in this manner. As for being "over-flooded," all of the entries are equally proper members, and so the size is appropriately representative of that. The category entries are furthermore broken up into 200 entry chunks and navigable by letter, so size is not a problem, plus having them all together is the only way to really see everyone who was an American lawyer together, rather than having to jump back and forth from one state category to another, each of which may only have a few entries depending on the size of the state. Create [state] lawyer categories and you're also only going to be inviting people to categorize them by the state they were born in, went to school in, or lived in at any time rather than the state(s) they actually practiced law in. Nationality is the way to go. Postdlf 20:11, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
You're very convincing, sir. Are you, perhaps, a lawyer? :) – Quadell (talk) (bounties) 20:21, 20 January 2006 (UTC)
Just to refute some of the above statements, saying that "the only way to really see everyone who was an American lawyer together" is to lump them all in the same category isn't correct, nor is it even necessary to ever see all the American lawyers in the same exact category. It's almost exactly like arguing that the only way to see every American company in the same category is to lump ALL American companies under Category:American companies. It isn't needed, and it creates categories that are exceedingly large.
Also, the argument that the size of the category isn't a problem because of the alphabetical index overlooks the problem of subcategories being spread out over many multiple pages. Note that Wikipedia spreads the subcategories out amongst the page displays, so rather than seeing all the subcategories at once you end up flipping through all the category subpages here looking to see if there are specific subcategories meeting a particular criteria.
Third, the argument that if you split the category up by state you'll get a confusing hodge podge of state categories on article pages simply isn't true. Most of the articles about lawyers only mention the lawyer practicing in one, maybe two, states. And even if a person is licensed to practice law in a state, if the article doesn't mention it and verify it then that article shouldn't appear in that state's lawyer subcategory. Unless the practice of law is mentioned in the article and notable, he wouldn't fall under the category of "lawyer" (as in the Wikipedia:Categorization of people example of "a film actor that holds a law degree should be categorized as a film actor, but not as a lawyer unless his or her legal career was notable in its own right.") Interestingly, in some cases it reduces the number of categories because it allows you to combine "People from state" and "State lawyers" into one category (eg "California lawyers" as a subcategory of "People from California", so you only need the one category in the article).
To that end I'm setting up Category:American lawyers by state, with the definition of "state" being the state(s) mentioned in the article in which the person notably practiced law. This should reduce the number of articles in the main category, and even reduce the number of categories in some of the articles. Individual editors can then haggle over any oddball articles that may be borderline, and articles with no clear state would remain in American lawyers.Dugwiki 22:01, 7 August 2006 (UTC)
Just as a quick follow-up, I've noticed in the process of doing this that there are a few articles about people that don't really belong in the "lawyer" category to begin with. For example, I've already seen four or five articles about people who are politicians but their article makes absolutely no mention of them practicing law. They probably are licensed to practice law, and took the bar, but you wouldn't know it from reading the article. So a side benefit is that it gives me a chance to remove articles of people who are at all notable for being a lawyer from this category all together.
Also, I haven't had any problems with multiple states of practice. 90% or more of the articles only refer to one state when it comes to practicing law. So while there will probably be a couple of harder to categorize articles by state, it's looking good that the number of those is very small. Dugwiki 22:41, 7 August 2006 (UTC)
Oh, one more benefit I realized I forgot to mention. Without state categorization, it is difficult to compare lawyers from the same state, such as if you wanted to look at various New York practitioners. However, by subcategorizing, you can easilly check within the same state, and if for some reason you want to expand out to all American lawyers then you know that all state-sorted lawyers are also American. So you gain access to state-specific indexing without losing much in terms of nation-specific indexing.Dugwiki 15:23, 8 August 2006 (UTC)

The state sub-categorization is going pretty well. I am also adding a new subcategory, Category:American federal lawyers, to cover lawyers who practice on behalf of the federal government. The reason is that the state categories do not cover federal attorneys, and some attorneys went straight from law school into federal practice and never practiced within a specific state. Once this is done, all practicing American lawyers will be able to fit within a corresponding state category and/or the federal subcategory. The only ones left would be articles that don't make clear within what jurisdiction the lawyers practices. Dugwiki 16:14, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

Bar Exam[edit]

Do people who completed law school but never took the bar exam or practiced law qualify under this category? I ran across Shannon Miller's article recently and was wondering if she can really be classified an "American Lawyer" if she has never practiced law. Kinston eagle (talk) 10:40, 23 April 2014 (UTC)

No. postdlf (talk) 17:42, 23 April 2014 (UTC)
Technically, she could be, IF reliable sources described her in that way. There are likely lawyers who never went to law school nor passed any official "bar" exams in place X but who still were considered lawyers, but for this individual it appears that she didn't. EVEN if she DID practice law, and take the bar - that is not enough. WP:DEFINING is the test for such job categories. People have many jobs over their lives, but don't classify on all of them (otherwise, Category:Restaurant staff would be full of actors and musicians.--Obi-Wan Kenobi (talk) 18:03, 23 April 2014 (UTC)