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Why have decollectivized Romanian lawyers failed to become important actors in the consolidation of their nation's democracy? Interviews of legal professionals in four Romanian cities suggest that their failure to participate in civil society inhibits avocats from becoming agents of change.

Notwithstanding the 1990-2002 statutes privatizing the bar, daily Romanian law practice differs little from collectivized practice. A similar resemblance to United States solo and small-firm practice is so striking as to belie the influence of the communist past in determining the behavior of typical Romanian lawyers today. The economics of law practice seem to explain consistent behavior in both countries. Decollectivization has affected avocats' outlook on their profession. Enduring rapidly changing statutes in new fields, avocats yearn for stability and clarity in the law that would diminish the need for interpretation by judges, who are too often corrupt.

Privatization has not modified the negative attitudes toward civic engagement generated during the communist era. Romanian lawyers are largely nonparticipants. This is in stark contrast to lawyers in the United States who actively volunteer in organizations to build their careers and out of a sense of social obligation, professional self-image, and response to community expectations. Romanian lawyers lack these non-economic motivations. However, if the financial/careerist justifications for civic activity were stronger, avocats' small but growing sense of professionalism could nudge them into community activities. In that new role they could strengthen Romanian democracy.

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