Ten Elements of 'Real' Ethics in the Practice of Law (and Life)

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ethics, legal profession



The legal profession has been “running a game” on its clients and on American society in its claim that it can self-regulate. The system of ethical regulation as practiced by the legal profession and courts is not a “real” system nor can it even be said to be an Ideal system. It is a deceptive pretense and pretension. It is time to stop the deception and to construct a new way of regulating lawyers and holding them to account for deficiencies and neglect. Many lawyers will not accept this interpretation either because of self-interest or to avoid facing the uncomfortable reality of a fatally flawed regulatory system that doesn’t work and was never really intended to work. What I am trying to capture here in offering “Ten Elements of “Real” Ethics in the Practice of Law (and Life)” is that there are reasons we lawyers “are what we are”, behave as we do and protect our “turf” against internal and external threats. Those reasons are the terms of a “real” system of lawyer ethics quite distinct from the existing version of formal ethics and extremely limited potential for civil liability related to ineffective representation and other violations of client responsibility. The undeniable fact is that the existing system of lawyer regulation not only fails to facilitate quality but contradicts our duties to society and to clients. A result is that we lawyers are so much less than we ought to be as “virtuous” and responsible advocates for the advancement of justice in American society and a force against abuse and unfairness.


Unpublished Cleveland-Marshall Legal Studies Paper No. 12-248