Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Journal of Legal Education

Publication Date

1991

Abstract

With characteristic insight, Thomas Shaffer has posed two questions that I think each of us might try to answer and urge our students to try to answer. The first question is, "Who is the client?" That is, how do I view my client with respect to my role as a lawyer? The second question is, "What is the concern of lawyers' ethics?" Shaffer's answer to the first question is that the client is "this other person, over whom I have power." His answer to the second question is that legal ethics is "concern[ed] with the goodness of someone else," that is, the client.3 He adds that the subject of legal ethics begins and ends with Socrates' question to the law professors of Athens: "Pray, will you concern yourself with anything else than how we citizens can be made as good as possible?'4 Even if one disagrees, as I do, with Shaffer's answers, the process of finding one's own answers to his questions provides considerable insight into one's perspective on legal ethics and how it affects one's answers to particular issues.

My own answers to Shaffer's questions are surely affected by my having to come to legal ethics from litigation involving civil rights, civil liberties, and the representation of indigent criminal defendants. Accordingly, although I agree that the concerns Shaffer expresses are important to lawyers' ethics, my attitude toward my client has a different emphasis. I identify the client not as "this other person, over whom I have power" but as "this other person whom I have the power to help." Thus, my central concern is not so much how I can make my client a better person but rather how far I can ethically go-or how far I should be required to go-to achieve for my client full and equal rights under law.6 Shaffer thinks of lawyers' ethics as rooted in moral philosophy, while I think of lawyers' ethics as rooted in the Journal of Legal Education Bill of Rights as expressed in our constitutionalized adversary system.7 My view of lawyers' ethics is, therefore, client-centered, emphasizing the lawyer's role in enhancing the client's autonomy as a free person in a free society.

Share

COinS