Journal of the Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics

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More than thirty years ago, Professor Elliot Evans Cheatham wrote "A Lawyer When Needed." His book raised a fundamental question: How can a person obtain justice without a lawyer?

Today, a major contribution might be a book titled, "A Social Worker When Needed." We are responsible not only for the rule of law. We are also accountable for the principle of empathy and humanity. Let me briefly touch on a few areas.

Before turning to some examples, I should remind you of what appears to be a basic difference in the approaches of social workers and lawyers. It was emphasized by both social workers and lawyers when I interviewed them, preparing for this paper. The social worker tends to expand an inquiry when a social problem is presented to get to the root causes, to solve related difficulties of the whole person, and to stay with the case with continuing help. The lawyer tends to narrow the question, to address and solve the present issue, and then to close the case.

As I sometimes tell my law clerks, "As judges, we must learn to be superficial." This fundamental difference between the two professions may be summed up as "tell me more" versus "get to the point."