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Villanova Law Review

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The need for a comprehensive, coherent, and enforceable code of ethical conduct for lawyers is manifest. Efforts to achieve such a code, however, are in a state of uncertainty, if not disarray.

The first nationally applicable set of rules governing the professional conduct of lawyers was the American Bar Association's Canons of Professional Ethics, promulgated in 1908. The Canons, however, were critically flawed. As acknowledged by the ABA itself in 1969, the Canons were largely devoted to petty details of form and manners, omitted coverage of important areas of concern, lacked coherence, failed to give ethical guidance, and did not adequately lend themselves to practical sanctions for violations. That is, of course, a devastating indictment of the rules under which the organized bar governed the profession for more than half a century.


Paper presented at the 1981 Villanova Law Review Symposium Legal Ethics: Ideas In Conflict.



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