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Home > CJ Ethics > Pt 4 Courts & Judicial Processing > Lawyer Ethics 

Lawyer Ethics & Legal Ethics

This page follows up on the issues of ethics and professional responsibility raised by the first two readings in Part IV Criminal Justice Ethics.

Cartoon by Signe Wilkinson

 Paul Haskell outlines a number of situations  - from helping clients break the law to inserting illegal clauses in contracts - and explains the what sections of the Professional Code of Conduct govern the situation. There's another interesting scenario involving a manipulation of the legal process by setting up a deposition appointment across town for an overworked woman who must take the bus. When she does not show up, the lawyer asks the court to dismiss her case, in which she lost her job for making comments about substandard cleanliness at a health care facility. (True story). 

The second article, by Ted Schneyer, who discusses philosophy's standard misconceptions of legal ethics. The philosopher's standard conception focuses on partisanship (being a 'hired gun' willing to do what the client wants) and 'neutrality' (taking clients who desire to achieve immoral ends, or taking clients without regard to personal morality). Schneyer reviews evidence from studies demonstrating that lawyers do not behave in these ways as frequently as people think. They do not do whatever the client wants, and frequently get the client to be more reasonable (so the lawyer protects working relations and reputation). There is little evidence lawyers take the cases of clients with whom they disagree (and in many cases there are a variety of principles at play - such as free speech in the case of Nazis who want to hold a public demonstration). In the end, Schneyer argues that the rules are not as unequivocal as the philosopher's indictment indicates; they allow, but do not require, some of the extreme behavior frequently criticized. 


Paul Haskell, Why Lawyers Behave As They Do
Moral Compass of the American Lawyer
Buy CJ Ethics

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The Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics indicates that public belief in the honesty and ethical standards of lawyers has declined in the last 20 years, and people see the ethical standards of lawyers as being about the same as labor union leaders, Congress members, advertising practitioners, and insurance salespeople. Lawyers come out slightly ahead of car salespeople (Tables 2.21 and 2.22). 

Other scenarios from The Moral Compass: The Special Privileges of Tobacco  ~ Secret Settlements

An Argument Against Reticence: critiquing an article entitled "From 'Moral Stupidity' to Professional Responsibility" 

Practical Moral Philosophy for Lawyers: Can Virtue Be Taught?

American Legal Ethics Library Cornell University based website – has a large collection of documents centering on the law and lawyering, and the ethics involved in each.

Center for Professional Responsibility Collection of rules, guidelines, and committees concerned with attorney conduct and ethics construction.

Ethics and Professional Duty Findlaw’s directory of codes, regulations and cases on ethics and professional responsibility, organized by state. Website set up to offer links and references to ethics rules, regulations and articles.

Legal Ethics and Reform Page

Legal Ethics and Rules from

Business and Professional Ethics lists legal and ethical resources that includes case studies from DePaul University.

Advertising and Client Development American Bar Association info

Lawyer Jokes & Humor

Why is it that New Jersey got all the toxic waste dumps and California got all the lawyers?

New Jersey had first choice
A restaurant full of lawyers was held hostage. The bad guys threatened that, until all their demands were met, they would release one lawyer every hour.
There’s an interesting new novel about two ex-convicts. One of them studies to become a lawyer, and the other decides to go straight. 
“When there are too many policemen, there can be no liberty;

When there are too many soldiers, there can be no peace;

When there are too many lawyers, there can be no justice.”

-- Lin Yutang 
What do lawyers and sperm have in common? 

Only one in two million ever does anything worthwhile. 
What do you call a lawyer gone bad?     Senator. 
“Personally, I don’t think you can make a lawyer honest by an act of legislature. You’ve got to work on his conscience. And his
lack of a conscience is what makes him a lawyer.” 
-- Will Rogers 
A group of professional men had finished a day’s hunt and were relaxing around the fire. Their hunting dogs occupied a clearing
nearby. One of the men observed that it was remarkable how the dogs had acquired the traits of their owners.

The musician’s dog was softly howling strains of the Moonlight sonata. The engineer’s dog was using his paw to perform
calculations in the dust.

The lawyer’s dog was screwing all the rest. 
Q: What's the difference between a lawyer and a bucket of dung?

A: The bucket

How do you know that it's REALLY cold out?

The lawyers have their hands in their own pockets.

More jokes from

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