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The Lawyer's Responsibility to the Client



The Lawyer's Responsibility to the Client



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1 Graven Images 136 1994


The vilification of lawyers is by now as boring as the profession's defense of itself. The debate, if that is what it can fairly be called, has mostly to do with the material, with money and power. The "bashers" hold lawyers responsible for the perceived avalanche of lawsuits, the high cost of everything from medical care to skiing, and the proliferation of rules that consume time and energy and often dictate ridiculous results. The profession's so-called defenders argue that the facts tell a different story: the number and amounts of jury verdicts are not responsible for the high cost of a visit to the doctor or ski hill. Indeed, lawyers are on the side of righteousness: the contingent fee is really the little guy's way of gaining access to justice. And as for that avalanche of litigation, it is explained by businesses fighting over what matters in business: money. As a kind of chorus are those lawyers who decry the passing of the profession into a business. Forces beyond the profession's control, they claim, are driving lawyers toward the exclusive pursuit of money and power, and away from being the helpers and counselors they have traditionally been. They note, as evidence of this thesis, the growth in the size of law firms and the large number of lawyers who leave the profession every year. Warren Lehman was very concerned with the actions and motivations of lawyers, and of the consequences of what they do-for clients, the public, and themselves. If he were alive today, he would probably argue that the legal profession's attackers and defenders both miss the mark. He would align himself with those who decry the erosion of the legal profession as counselors and helpers. I agree with most of Warren's analysis of the shortcomings of the profession and its traditional model for the identification and pursuit of a client's interest as he articulated it in "The Pursuit of a Client's Interest," published in the Michigan Law Review.I Had Warren lived, he might have elaborated on his views by explaining why the profession suffers the shortcomings he believed it has and by exploring the implications for his own profession, that of legal educator. In this essay, I will briefly restate Warren's analysis of where the legal profession has gone wrong. After this, I will draw on my experience in a much more crude world than the one Warren inhabited, that of prisons and inmates, to offer evidence in support of Warren's view. Finally, I will briefly reflect on the difficulty of the achievement of Warren's model in the modem world and its implications for legal education.