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The Lawyer as Truth-Teller: Lessons from Enron

14 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2008 Last revised: 21 Nov 2008

Thomas Bost


Date Written: 2005


This article is included in the symposium "Can the Ordinary Practice of Law Be a Religious Calling?". The teaching and practice of law assume and are shaped by the standard vision of lawyer conduct and ethical responsibility. Under the standard vision, which is reflected in the various codes of professional responsibility governing lawyers, the lawyer is a "neutral partisan" for his or her client: "neutral" in that he does not let his moral values affect his actions on behalf of his client; "partisan" in that she does whatever she can within the limits of the law to advance her client's stated interests. Because the standard vision is readily understood by most lawyers as imposing a code of conduct upon them in their practice of law, the standard vision is referred to as the "Code." Bost evaluates some of the merits or limitations of the Code by examining the decline and fall of Enron Corporation, which has occasioned a comprehensive reappraisal of American business and professional ethics and behavior. He pays particular attention to the role and conduct of Enron's attorneys, especially their primary outside law firm, Vinson & Elkins. Bost proposes that lawyers endeavor to move beyond being mere "implementers" to becoming wise "counselors" to their clients. He concludes the article by examining the Enron situation from the perspective of a Christian lawyer and argues that the teachings of Christ mandate that lawyers must be willing and able to tell their clients the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Keywords: enron, professional responsibility

JEL Classification: K22

Suggested Citation

Bost, Thomas, The Lawyer as Truth-Teller: Lessons from Enron (2005). Pepperdine Law Review, Vol. 32, No. 2, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Thomas Bost (Contact Author)


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