Zacharias’s Prophecy: The Federalization of Legal Ethics Through Legislative, Court, and Agency Regulation

29 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2011  

Daniel Coquillette

Boston College - Law School; Harvard Law School

Judith A. McMorrow

Boston College - Law School

Date Written: June 20, 2011

Abstract

In his 1994 seminal article on Federalizing Legal Ethics, Prof. Fred Zacharias examined the need for a national and uniform code of ethics for attorneys. Prof. Zacharias was correct that there has been increasing pressure to federalize legal ethics, but that process is occurring not through articulation of national norms but rather through decentralized contextualization of attorney conduct norms. Federal agencies that direct securities practice, immigration, tax, patent, labor and many other areas of federal practice are increasingly supplementing state regulations to specifically regulate the attorneys who appear before their agencies. Targeted substantive federal law and treaty obligations also increasingly apply to attorneys. The effect is to slowly move the center of gravity of attorney regulation toward a complex web of federal regulation in the many areas that involve federal interests. This process offers some important benefits of contextualization and carries some risk, including conflicts between federal and state norms. Our robust experience with federalism provides a mechanism to work through these tensions and differences.

Keywords: attorney regulation, legal ethics, Professor Fred Zacharias

Suggested Citation

Coquillette, Daniel and McMorrow, Judith A., Zacharias’s Prophecy: The Federalization of Legal Ethics Through Legislative, Court, and Agency Regulation (June 20, 2011). San Diego Law Review, Vol. 48, 2011; Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 230. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1868525

Daniel Coquillette (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States

Harvard Law School

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Judith A. McMorrow

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States

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