Role Differentiation and Lawyers’ Ethics: A Critique of Some Academic Perspectives [formerly titled: Moral Freaks: Lawyers’ Ethics in Academic Perspective]
William H. Simon
Columbia University - Law School; Stanford Law School
May 22, 2010
Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics, 2010
Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 09-215
Much recent academic discussion exaggerates the distance between plausible legal ethics and ordinary morality. This essay criticizes three prominent strands of discussion: one drawing on the moral philosophy of personal virtue, one drawing on legal philosophy, and a third drawing on utilitarianism of the law-and-economics variety. The discussion uses as a central reference point the “Mistake-of-Law” scenario in which a lawyer must decide whether to rescue an opposing party from the unjust consequences of his own lawyer’s error. I argue that academic efforts to shore up the professional inclination against rescue are not plausible. I conclude by recommending an older jurisprudential tradition in which legal ethics is more convergent with ordinary morality.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 25Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: October 31, 2009 ; Last revised: May 27, 2010
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