CRISIS AT THE BAR: The Unethical Ethics of Lawyers and What To Do About It by Jethro K. Lieberman

CRISIS AT THE BAR: The Unethical Ethics of Lawyers and What To Do About It

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The trouble is not with lawyers, but with their ethical system. Jethro K. Lieberman, a lawyer who serves as legal affairs editor of Business Week, scores the ""Code of Professional Responsibility"" (successor to the ""Canons of Ethics"") whose gaps, inconsistencies, and out-and-out private-interest provisions allow lawyers to set public-be-damned fee structures (which the Supreme Court recently found to be an obvious example of price-fixing) and discipline comrades who dare to charge less; discourage group legal services, along with advertising and self-promotion (a fast-changing area, following another Supreme Court case); let lawyers do great public harm under the guise of serving clients' interests; and provide no effective disciplinary system, among other sins. Lieberman suggests a number of reforms--some obvious, a few ingenious, and others obviously unattainable. Among them are a new code of ethics, ""zero-based,"" articulating lawyers' specific conduct responsibilities; the public assumption of bar discipline; minimizing unnecessary legal practice; a cease-fire on harassment of other professionals and paraprofessionals; requiring public service by all law school graduates (a ""lawyer draft""); monitoring judges; preaching and teaching ethics, and--fasten your seat belts, folks--eliminating the (high) profit motive from law practice. Watergate, consumerism, and the demystification of the professions make the topic timely. But vogue is insufficient. Lieberman, unfortunately, writes with a shotgun. Although much of what he says is clearly correct, none of the farrago of problems he addresses is new; many have been tackled before, often with more extensive or persuasive analysis. While new initiatives in the public interest are all to the good, this particular effort adds little.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1978
Publisher: Norton