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Legal ethics

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-L139-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2001
Retrieved June 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

Legal ethics can be considered from at least three related viewpoints. First, as ‘professional ethics’, it is a corpus of rules, principles and standards, often embodied in a written code and disseminated, applied and enforced by appropriate governing bodies as a guide to the professional conduct of lawyers. Legal professions set up specific institutions and officers to monitor and assist practitioners and to accumulate experience and expertise in applying detailed provisions in morally complex situations. For some commentators this is primarily regulation or administration and not ethics at all, but for others it is ethics in action or ‘applied ethics’. ‘Applied ethics’ is the second aspect of legal ethics, distinguished from ethics in general by the focus on ethical issues in the context of legal practice, including confidentiality, conflict of interest or acting for a morally disreputable client. Interesting though such questions may be in themselves, some writers do not acknowledge that they are truly questions of ethics, because the duties and privileges of specialist functional groups generally and lawyers in particular are not universalizable. For others, including some feminist ethicists, the ‘agent as such’ does not exist and we all encounter moral difficulties and problems, if we encounter them at all, only in the context of some specific relationship or role, for example in the role of a lawyer. Legal ethics thus requires an analysis of role morality. The third aspect of legal ethics is as an integral element in general philosophical and legal education.

Citing this article:
Tur, Richard. Legal ethics, 2001, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-L139-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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