The Trump Card: A Lawyer’s Personal Conscience or Professional Duty?
Julie A. Oseid
University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)
Stephen D. Easton
University of Wyoming - College of Law
Wyoming Law Review, Forthcoming
U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10-18
This essay is an exchange between a law professor and law school dean about whether a lawyer’s personal conscience can trump the lawyer’s professional duty. The issue is considered after a student approaches the law professor asking, “Do you think I’ll ever have to do something I just don’t think is right? Did you ever do something as a lawyer that bothered your conscience?” The law professor seeks advice from the dean (who also happens to be her mentor and brother) in deciding how to answer the student. Conscience is defined in this essay as the individual’s internal guide about what is right and what is wrong. The authors consider the two opposing traditional approaches: zealous advocacy versus personal conscience. The authors discuss both potential conflicts between conscience and professional duty and possible solutions. The authors ultimately recommend a middle-ground approach. The student is advised to carefully consider an area of practice that comports with her values and to choose her colleagues with care. When the inevitable conscience conflict arises, the authors tell the student that in rare circumstances her personal conscience may trump her professional duty.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 44
Keywords: professional responsibility, professionalism, professional morality, conscience, professional duty
Date posted: April 24, 2010