Professionalism: The Deep Theory

8 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2005

See all articles by Daniel Coquillette

Daniel Coquillette

Boston College - Law School; Harvard Law School


Can our personal ethics and our professional ethics be in opposition? Our professional identity as lawyers is at the center of our personal morality. The legal profession is in crisis because we have lost sight of the deep theory of professionalism. This article focuses on our ultimate motivation for obeying rules, concentrating on three common categories: goal-based, rights-based, and duty-based theories. By examining these theories, the article argues that lawyers must turn away from the modern trend of goal instrumentalism and refocus legal practice on its humanistic roots.

Keywords: legal ethics, professional responsibility, personal ethics, professional ethics, goal-based theory, rights-based theory, duty-based theory, instrumentalism, humanistic practice

Suggested Citation

Coquillette, Daniel, Professionalism: The Deep Theory. Boston College Law School Legal Research Series Paper No. 1994-02, Available at SSRN:

Daniel Coquillette (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States

Harvard Law School

1575 Massachusetts
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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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