Are Lawyers Ethical or Can They Be?

There was a do tonight at the Law Society for a couple of friends of mine, Kim Economides and Justine Rogers, who were presenting report "Preparatory Ethics Training for Future Solicitors". It's a well-reasoned plea for proper intensive and extensive ethics training and consciousness raising.

In the US it took the Watergate affair to bring ethics classes into the law school curriculum. We've had plenty of crooked lawyers but still we don't teach legal ethics except in a raggedy way to vocational students. By which time it's too late.

The report is timely and necessary but let's see how the profession takes to it. But don't hold....

There were a number of the legal great and good there including judges. I had an interesting chat with one high court judge who told me the following story.

Apparently, a Muslim barrister came out of court after a case and complained vociferously about the jury being anti-Islam, etc. My judge thought this was deplorable and a dreadful lapse in professional standards by the barrister. He argued he should be chastised for his behaviour.

I was astonished at his bias and wanting to suppress free speech. The barrister ought to be celebrated for speaking out. He was stimulating debate.

My judge believed the jury system was being impugned and how would public perception suffer?

Two errors there, judge. One the public perception is effectively zero. Forget that. It's the public that would bring back hanging. The public hasn't got a clue about law and the legal system except for when they get a parking ticket.

Second, is the legal system so weak it can't argue it's place with a wacky barrister. Is it really prepared to quash free speech just because it considers some dubious ethical imperative to have been traduced?

And this by the way from a judge who is described as liberal or even occasionally left wing. It's all context really.


Ian said…
Dear John,

That's an excellent blog post. Has this report been published yet or is it in the works? I'd certainly be interested to read it.

One of the major problems, highlighted by your post, is the fact that there is a tension between ethic and 'professional standard', likely to be highlighted more so by barristers than solicitors.

How can we hope to unite the bond between ethical thinking and professional standards?

I would think a few of the more traditional in the legal system would oppose a move.

Certainly, however, I agree with the idea that ethics should be taught, particularly in regards to consciousness and moral perspective, something that is lacking in today's society.

Ian Caithness