Private Practice, Public Profession: Convictions, Commitments, and the Availability of Counsel

26 Pages Posted: 25 Feb 2010 Last revised: 16 Jul 2018

See all articles by Barry Sullivan

Barry Sullivan

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Date Written: October 15, 2005


In a democratic society, the legal profession, its rights and privileges, exist to serve public purposes. The legal profession serves two public purposes: to provide representation to those who lack the specialized training to represent themselves, that is, non-lawyers, and to promote justice in society.

Both of these purposes – the representation of clients and the advancement of justice – are public purposes. They are essential to civil peace, to the rule of law, and to the well-being of a democratic society, particularly one in which life and law are complex, and where the just resolution of disputes and the evolution of legal principle both depend upon the proper functioning of the adversary system. Of course, these two purposes will sometimes conflict, but that is a subject for another time. The point I want to make at the outset is that the legal profession does not exist principally to reward lawyers, either financially or in the sense of making them feel good. These may be ancillary benefits that flow from the practice of law, and properly may be wished for, but they do not provide its primary justification. The main justification for the legal profession rests in the fact that it satisfies the two essential social needs I have mentioned.

Keywords: Availability of counsel, legal profession, legal ethics, repugnant client, right to counsel

JEL Classification: K00, K10, K4, K40

Suggested Citation

Sullivan, Barry, Private Practice, Public Profession: Convictions, Commitments, and the Availability of Counsel (October 15, 2005). West Virginia Law Review, Vol. 108, No. 1, 2005, Available at SSRN:

Barry Sullivan (Contact Author)

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States


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