Power as a Factor in Lawyers’ Ethical Deliberation

 In Articles

A fundamental disagreement among legal ethics scholars concerns the difference between client-centered and justice-centered approaches to lawyers’ ethical obligations. Stated most simply, advocates of clientcentered approaches put lawyers’ duty to the client first. Scholars closely identified with clinical legal education, poverty law, and indigent criminal defense frequently advocate client-centered approaches. In contrast, justice-centered approaches critique the elevation of the client’s interests over other important concerns lawyers affect through the work they do on behalf of clients. Scholars who adopt justice-centered approaches argue that lawyers’ ethical obligations should be analyzed with a paramount focus on achieving justice. David Luban, William Simon, Robert Gordon, Deborah Rhode, Bradley Wendel, and Russell Pearce are leading proponents of justice-centered approaches. It is less clear that these scholars come from shared practice locations— unless legal academia should be considered such a location—but it does seem fair to characterize much of the work of these scholars as centrally concerned with the way in which lawyers for relatively powerful clients, especially the huge corporate entities that masquerade in law as “persons,” can cause great harm to the fragile fabric of public regulatory law.

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