The Lawyer as Lover: Are Courts Romanticizing the Lawyer-Client Relationship?
24 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2016
Date Written: April 18, 2016
Forty years ago, Professor Charles Fried argued that, like a friend or relative, a lawyer is morally entitled to give special priority to a client’s interests by virtue of the special relationship. One may gain a different perspective on lawyers’ fidelity to clients if, instead of analogizing lawyers to friends, one compares lawyer-client relationships to romantic ones – that is, if one envisions lawyers as lovers. Unlike Fried’s article, this essay is not a philosophical exploration of whether lawyers should be devoted to clients at public expense. Rather, drawing on particular cultural understandings, this essay is a normative exploration of whether lawyers can and should be devoted to clients not only at the expense of others’ interests but also at the expense of their own self-interest. In particular, it asks whether lawyers can and should meet courts’ expectations of loyalty, candor, and confidentiality.
The argument, here, is that just as pop singers might idealize attributes such as fidelity and candor in romantic relationships, courts sometimes romanticize analogous attributes such as loyalty and candor in lawyer-client relationships. Moreover, just as it is unrealistic to expect lovers consistently to achieve romantic ideals, it may be unrealistic to expect lawyers consistently to achieve analogous professional ideals. Although the analogy between lawyers and lovers will seem frivolous, it leads to a serious point: courts should adopt a less idealized rhetoric and express more realistic expectations of the lawyer-client relationship.
Keywords: lawyer-client relationship, fiduciary duties
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