Monday, July 8, 2013

Book review and discussion of lawyers' roles

JOTWELL has a good book review of W. Bradley Wendel's Lawyers and Fidelity to Law (Princeton University Press, 2010).  I have not read the book, but enjoyed the short review which summarizes the philosophical debate about the justification of the duties of lawyers toward their clients.  As the review explains, "several moral philosophers, and a few lawyers, characterized legal representation as comprising two overarching principles.  The principle of neutrality, they said, demanded that lawyers represent clients or causes they may disagree with morally. The principle of partisanship demanded that they fulfill their client’s wishes to the limits of the law. Provided they fulfill these tasks faithfully, they were morally absolved on the grounds that the role they perform is itself good. . . . Despite some spirited justifications, and more nuanced rejoinders, the balance of debate moved on to the consequences of such a conclusion and the steps that should follow."  

Wendel's book revises the issue of the standard conception of the lawyer’s role.  According to the review, his position is that the message that lawyers are slaves to clients’ wishes is not one that anyone concerned with the integrity of professional values wants to convey, while admitting that the profession's underlying rationale has to be the autonomy of clients.  To reconcile the conflicting views, Wendel argues the proposition that it is not fidelity to clients that is the underlying justification of the lawyer’s role, but fidelity to law itself.

Go here to read the full review.

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