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Catholic University Law Review

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It is a singularly good thing, I think, that law students, and even some lawyers and law professors, are questioning with increasing frequency and intensity whether "professionalism" is incompatible with human decency-asking, that is, whether one can be a good lawyer and a good person at the same time. I have a special interest in that question because Professor John T. Noonan, Jr. (a personal friend, perceptive critic, and a previous speaker in this annual series) has drawn the inference from my book that I do not believe that a decent, honest person can practice criminal law or teach others to do so. In fact, the title of today's paper derives directly from a challenge issued to me in the concluding paragraph of Professor Noonan's review of my book, urging that I write on "Personal Responsibility in a Professional System."

At the same time I address the issue of professionalism and personal moral responsibility, I want also to discuss an integrally related question, one that is often expressed in terms of whether it is the lawyer or the client who should exercise "control" in the relationship between them. As it is frequently put: Is the lawyer just a "hired gun," or must the lawyer "obey his own conscience, not that of his client?"


Delivered as the 13th annual Pope John XXIII Lecture at Catholic University Law School, Washington, D.C., October 28, 1977.



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