Professionalism without Parochialism: Julius Henry Cohen, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, and the Stories of Two Sons
Samuel J. Levine
Touro College - Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center
March 15, 2003
Fordham Law Review Vol. 71, No. 4, 2003
Professor Levine addresses the question of whether the practice of law a business or a profession and looks at sources where practitioners might draw inspiration for ethical behaviors. He examines two works: a 1916 book by Julius Henry Cohen - The Law: Business or Profession?; and a tale by Chasidic master Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Both works tell the story of two sons from two different fathers with different ethical natures that manifest in their different choices of and approaches to their careers. Professor Levine uses these two parables to suggest that a more inclusive question than those posed above: whether the true measure of an individual's societal value is more a function of personal character than it is of professional status. This question inherently requires the rejection of two notions: first, that the practice of law properly sits on a pedestal placing it above other money- making professions; and second, that those who practice law are worthy of respect simply due to their membership in the legal profession. The parochialism referred to in the title is that of looking only within the confines of the legal profession for guidelines to ethical practice, eschewing members of other occupations, situations outside the workplace, and one's own religious beliefs or value systems. Looking farther afield than the legal profession for ethical guidance encourages the development of an ethical view that has application in all aspects of one's life so that one does not have one set of behaviors while in the office and another set of behaviors while in a house of worship. Development of this unitary ethical approach might go some way to healing the division that lawyers often feel between their professional and personal lives.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 18
Keywords: legal profession, Julius Henry Cohen, legal ethics
JEL Classification: K40
Date posted: July 6, 2008 ; Last revised: July 22, 2013
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