Beyond Cardboard Clients in Legal Ethics

60 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2008 Last revised: 18 Feb 2009

Date Written: September 10, 2008


This Article argues that the construction of cardboard clients in legal ethics has disserved legal ethics by obscuring what is arguably a more central problem of legal professionalism: the problem of legal objectification. The problem of legal objectification is the tendency of lawyers to "issue-spot" their clients as they would the facts on a blue-book exam, overemphasizing the clients' legal interests and minimizing or ignoring the other cares, commitments, relationships, reputations and values that constitute the objectives clients bring to legal representation. This Article proposes an alternative ideal of legal professionalism for "three-dimensional clients" based on helping clients articulate and actualize their values through the law. It argues that a client value-based model of representation survives the critiques of early legal ethicists and provides an antidote against both the self-seeking behavior that legal objectification promotes and the danger of moral overreaching associated with the lawyer-statesman model.

Suggested Citation

Kruse, Kate, Beyond Cardboard Clients in Legal Ethics (September 10, 2008). UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-02, Available at SSRN: or

Kate Kruse (Contact Author)

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105-3076
United States

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