My purpose on this occasion is to urge reexamination of personal values as a fundamental resource of professional ethics. The essential point is that rules of ethics, such as those embodied in the profession's ethical codes, are insufficient guides to making the choices of action that a professional must make in practice. I will suggest that the same is true of professional tradition and conventional ways of practice. This is not to say that rules of ethics and traditions are irrelevant. Rules of professional ethics frame the ethical problems that are encountered in a lawyer's life throughout practice. Moreover, professional tradition provides an idealized portrait of a professional that serves as a model for action in real world situations. However, framing an ethical problem is one thing, resolving such a problem is something else. Oliver Wendell Holmes remarked about the judicial function that "[g]general propositions do not decide concrete cases." The same point supports ethical choices that must be made by lawyers in conducting their practice. So also an idealized conception of what a professional should be, as portrayed in professional tradition, does not determine what a professional should do in the non-ideal world of actual practice.
Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr.,
Personal Values and Professional Ethics,
40 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol40/iss2/3