The Belated Decline of Literalism in Professional Responsibility Doctrine: Soft Deception and the Rule of Law

William H. Simon, Columbia Law School


Literalism is the doctrine that a facially accurate but knowingly deceptive statement does not violate prohibitions of falsehood and misrepresentation. This essay argues that Literalism has had greater legitimacy in professional responsibility than in other areas of law, but that it seems to be in terminal decline. It surveys the arguments for and against Literalism and concludes that its impending demise should be welcomed.