Scandals Great and Small

The conference theme—Lawyering at the Edge—evokes images of lawyers ensnared in legal scandals, lawyers testing the boundaries of the ethics rules, and lawyers at their moral and emotional limits. Lawyers at the edge labor under psychological and social pressures. They are tested and tempted. They are under pressure and under attack. The scandals threaten to overwhelm them. I will focus on two kinds of cases where lawyers face those pressures. One kind involves lawyers caught up in controversies where the tactics veer toward the vicious as opponents “fight fire with fire”— cases we often describe as “spiraling,” or “out of control,” or having “a life of their own.” Lurking behind those phrases is the notion that rationality no longer reigns.

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