Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility

Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility

Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility

Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility


Beginning with a general overview, this book examines ethical rules pertaining to the judiciary, the Bar, and solicitors. Further chapters look at confidentiality, at the particular ethical problems of the family and criminal law jurisdictions, and at the teaching of legal ethics. Other chapters put the subject into its wider social and professional context and ask whether the medical ethics can throw light on legal ethics.


One of the unfortunate consequences in this jurisdiction of the division between the academic and vocational stages of legal education is that subjects such as procedure, drafting, and ethics have not been subject to the same level of academic examination as in other countries, notably the United States. These subjects may be taught, and taught well, but their very location in a vocational programme means that there is little time or incentive to subject the black letter rules to a critical examination as to their rationale, context, and social implications. No more so is this than with professional responsibility and legal ethics, which until recently has been sadly neglected, even at the vocational stage. The situation is scarcely better in other European jurisdictions. Professor Henssler, of the University of Köln, has written to me:

In Germany there is practically no education of students on ethical rules. The only university in Germany having an institute for the law of the legal profession is Cologne. Additionally there is no obligation for students to enrol in my courses so they are offered to a small and interested audience. Neither in the written examination or during the four month period for trainee solicitors are students tested on ethical rules.

Professor Henssler then goes on to say that his aim in Germany is to reform the educational system in this area.

And that is the reason that in my presidential year of the Society of Public Teachers of Law (SPTL) I chose professional responsibility and legal ethics as the theme of the annual conference. The chapters in this book are based on some of the papers presented to that conference. (The exceptions are the chapters by Michael Brindle and Guy Dehn, and by Derek Morgan, which were specially written for the present book.) I am grateful to the authors for revising their contributions for publication, in most cases very extensively. I must also thank both Professor Jay Westbrook of the University of Texas, Dr Doreen McBarnet of Oxford, and Cyril Glasser who made stimulating presentations to the conference.

The conference would not have been the success it was without the flair and administrative ability of Mildred Schofield and Nicola Jones. Indeed during my presidential year Mildred was an invaluable support. In this regard I must also mention the honorary secretary of the SPTL, Professor Peter Birks. In so many ways the Society has been reinvigorated by his enthusiasm and dedication; all academics in this country are in his debt. Finally, there is Richard Hart of the publishers, who from the outset pursued the idea of a book on what he rightly regards as a most important topic.

A very brief conspectus of the book is in order. It begins with my . . .

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