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   ... edited by W. Bradley Wendel, Washington and Lee University School of Law

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From the Editor...

Welcome to JURIST's Guide to the Legal Profession.

The legal profession is the concern not only of regulators such as bar associations, legislatures, and courts, but also of moral and political philosophers, sociologists, historians, and novelists. The profession is governed by its own disciplinary rules, frequently referred to as "codes of ethics" (an unfortunate label, in my view, because it equates the resolution of moral questions with following the rules). Courts may defer to the organized bar understanding of its rights and obligations, or they may impose additional or even conflicting duties on lawyers. The complexity of the law applicable to lawyers is reflected in the ALI Restatement of the Law Governing Lawyers, soon to be promulgated in final form.

Critics ask whether the norms expressed in the law of lawyering are contrary to ordinary moral values or to personal commitments such as religious beliefs. Some recurring dilemmas, such as the conflict between the obligation to keep confidences and the ordinary moral duty to disclose information that could prevent harm to third parties, may pit legal ethics against personal ethics. On the other hand, the duties of lawyers may be consonant with a particular understanding of ordinary morality. The best scholarship on the theory of the legal profession attempts to explain how the values presupposed by our legal institutions can be squared with ethics, broadly speaking.

Suggestions for expanding or correcting this subject guide are welcome. Please contact the editor at

W, Bradley Wendel is Assistant Professor of Law at Washington and Lee University.