Legal ethics is a disappointing subject. From afar, it seems exciting; it promises to engage the central normative commitments that make lawyering a profession and that account for much of the nonpecuniary appeal of the lawyer's role. Thus, when people see public spirit among lawyers threatened by commercial self-seeking, they often prescribe increased attention to the teaching and -discussion of legal ethics as a remedy.1
But close up, legal ethics usually turns out to be dull and dispiriting. At most law schools, students find the course in legal ethics or professional responsibility boring and insubstantial, and faculty dread having to teach it. Bar association ethics discussions rarely generate interest over the kind of basic questions of value that the view from afar associates with legal ethics. The reason that legal ethics is so consistently disappointing is that the prevailing conceptions of the subject fail to respond to the aspirations that draw people to it.
William H. Simon,
The Trouble with Legal Ethics,
J. Legal Educ.
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