Legal Ethics in an Adversary System: The Persistent Questions

It is a particular pleasure to be among so many friends and distinguished colleagues, and to have an occasion to honor one of the founding fathers of our field. As many of you doubtless noted, my title is a variation on two of Professor Freedman’s earliest and widely influential works. This event is a fitting occasion for reflection on what has changed and what has remained the same during the last four decades since the first of these works appeared. A brief keynote address cannot, of course, chronicle the evolution of the entire field of legal ethics. But it does provide an opportunity to trace several themes that have been central to contemporary debates and to Professor Freedman’s own contributions: autonomy, access, and accountability. First, what is the role of client autonomy in the adversary system, and how does it compare with other values? Second, what are the challenges of practicing in a system that enshrines equal access to justice in principle, but violates it routinely in practice? And finally, how do we ensure an appropriate measure of public accountability for professional conduct?

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