Monday, August 06, 2007

Justice: What's law got to do with it?

My faculty are discussing this question -- do law schools have a responsibility to talk to students about the role of the lawyer in promoting justice in society, not just as a jealous advocate of a client's inrerest?

Like many young law students, I went to law school figuring there was some connection between law and justice. I was stunned when a prof argued that the lawyer was constrained by professional ethics to do no more and no less than vigorously advocate the client's interest. In the US that's been our model.

When I read Rumpole novels, I discovered that British lawyers are constrained to tell the court if they know their client is lying or misrepresenting the truth. Wow! What a concept! Of course, Rumpole skirts the edges of that obligation by telling the client not to tell him if they are lying or know something that must not be revealed to the court. What a departure from US rules of client confidentiality!

Somewhere in there, we must find a balance between representing our client zealously, and advancing the cause of justice in our society. I think the disconnect between those two in American law practice has led to a great deal of public dissatisfaction with and distrust of lawyers. What a shame!

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

The National Law Journal (8/7 issue) has an article about a Wisconsin state legislator, Frank Lasee, who compares lawyers to a horde of locusts, and is proposing to first cut state support of the Wisconsin University law school, and then eliminate state support entirely. That's a really bad attitude about lawyers!