Lawyers in Character and Lawyers in Role

14 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2012

Date Written: January 1, 2010


Legal ethicists have long been fascinated by the relationships between lawyers’ roles in an adversary system of justice and the character, attitudes, or dispositions that best suit the practice of law. Leonard Riskin’s scholarship has explored how lawyers’ practice of mindfulness can improve their legal practice, and his claim in this body of work – that the practice of mindfulness helps to develop the internalized trait of mindfulness – ties his scholarship to the work of legal ethicists who have endeavored to develop character-based theories of legal ethics. Riskin’s analysis of how lawyers might incorporate mindfulness into law practice also embodies the components of empathy and openness to multiple perspectives that legal ethicists promote as a way of developing the character traits they deem necessary for good lawyers in their advocacy roles.

This essay explores the possibilities that Riskin’s call for the development of the trait of mindfulness offers for the discussion of lawyers’ roles and lawyers’ characters in legal ethics. In particular, it explores the connections between Riskin's work and the work of the two most prominent legal ethicists who have proposed the development of distinctively lawyerly character traits: Anthony Kronman’s call for the revival of a “lawyer-statesman” ideal in his book The Lost Lawyer; and Daniel Markovit’s proposal in A Modern Legal Ethics that lawyers develop the poetic virtues of fidelity and negative capability. I suggest how Riskin’s explorations of the benefits of mindfulness practice for lawyers point the way to a more satisfying solution to the problems associated with legal professionalism.

Keywords: Legal ethicist, legal ethics, Leonard Riskin, mindfulness, empathy, openness, advocacy role, traits, virtues, adversary, legal professionalism

JEL Classification: K00, K49

Suggested Citation

Kruse, Kate, Lawyers in Character and Lawyers in Role (January 1, 2010). Nevada Law Review, Vol. 10, p. 393, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Kate Kruse (Contact Author)

Mitchell Hamline School of Law ( email )

875 Summit Ave
St. Paul, MN 55105-3076
United States

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