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Catholic University Law Review

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Thomas Shaffer is the most erudite and graceful writer in the field of lawyers' ethics, and he has few peers in any other area of legal scholarship. If I had the luxury of studying for a year under any professor in the country, it would be with Professor Shaffer. In this Commentary on his Brendan Brown Lecture, I am going to disagree with him, but only to express a different, not a better, view.

The difference between us is expressed in major part in the titles of our two pieces. Professor Shaffer is primarily concerned with his client's "goodness," while my primary concern is with the fact that my client has come to me because he or she is suffering in some way or, at least, is trying to avoid suffering.

That difference in our perspectives or major premises is illustrated in the first paragraph of Professor Shaffer's lecture. Legal ethics, he says, relates to "this other person, over whom I have power." I would say, "this other person, whom I have the power to help." Legal ethics, he continues, is concerned with "the goodness of someone else." I would say that legal ethics is concerned with the limits on how far I can go as a lawyer in helping that person and, therefore, with the limits of that person's rights. That is, when we write and enforce rules of lawyers' ethics, we define clients' rights in fundamental ways.



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