The Lawyer's Amoral Ethical Role: A Defense, a Problem, and Some Possibilities

American Bar Foundation Research Journal, pp. 613-635, 1986

25 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2008  

Stephen Pepper

University of Denver College of Law

Date Written: 1986

Abstract

This essay presents a moral justification for the current generally accepted amoral ethical role of the lawyer. The justification is premised primarily upon the values of individual autonomy, equality, and diversity. Based upon these values, the author argues that the amoral role is the correct moral stance for the lawyer as a professional, is a "good" role. The essay then responds to two of the most frequent criticisms of that moral stance: the first based upon economic inequality and the fact that lawyers' services must be purchased; the second based upon the absence of the "adversary system" context for most lawyer work. The author then elaborates a serious problem created by the conjunction of the amoral role and the dominant legal philosophy of American lawyers, "legal realism." If the limit on a lawyers' conduct under the traditional amoral role is the law, then the realist emphasis on the indeterminacy and manipulability of "law" leave the lawyer in a difficult moral position. Finally, a series of possibilities are presented to deal with this problem, the most promising of which is the "moral dialogue" between lawyer and client as an adjunct to the amoral role.

Suggested Citation

Pepper, Stephen, The Lawyer's Amoral Ethical Role: A Defense, a Problem, and Some Possibilities (1986). American Bar Foundation Research Journal, pp. 613-635, 1986. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1268871

Stephen L. Pepper (Contact Author)

University of Denver College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States
303-871-6259 (Phone)

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