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The Practice of Justice

The Practice of Justice

A Theory of Lawyers’ Ethics

William H. Simon

ISBN 9780674002753

Publication date: 03/15/2000

Should a lawyer keep a client's secrets even when disclosure would exculpate a person wrongly accused of a crime? To what extent should a lawyer exploit loopholes in ways that enable clients to gain unintended advantages? When can lawyers justifiably make procedural maneuvers that defeat substantive rights? The Practice of Justice is a fresh look at these and other traditional questions about the ethics of lawyering. William Simon, a legal theorist with extensive experience in practice, charges that the profession's standard approach to these questions is incoherent and implausible.

At the same time, Simon rejects the ethical approaches most frequently proposed by the profession's critics. The problem, he insists, does not lie in the profession's commitment to legal values over those of ordinary morality. Nor does it arise from the adversary system. Rather, Simon shows that the critical weakness of the standard approach is its reliance on a distinctive style of judgment--categorical, rule-bound, rigid--that is both ethically unattractive and rejected by most modern legal thought outside the realm of legal ethics. He develops an alternative approach based on a different, more contextual, style of judgment widely accepted in other areas of legal thought.

The author enlivens his argument with discussions of actual cases, including the Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal and the Leo Frank murder trial, as well as fictional accounts of lawyering, including Kafka's The Trial and the movie The Verdict.

Praise

  • Though slender and unpretentious, William Simon's new book, The Practice of Justice, packs a wallop. Aiming at nothing less than a radical rethinking of lawyer's ethics, it proposes a new conception of our professional responsibilities and challenges us to examine critically the conventional norms of our professional role. Along the way, it explores the scope and underpinning of our loyalty to clients, our obligations to protect the rights of third parties and our duty to promote justice...Simon's writing is lucid, well-organized and jargon-free...The cogency of [his] critique of the dominant view...shakes the grounds on which we currently practice...Thus, Simon's work is profoundly unsettling, even disorienting, both intellectually and emotionally. Therein lies its enormous value.

    —James M. Altman, New York Law Journal

Author

  • William H. Simon is Kenneth and Harle Montgomery Professor of Public Interest Law at Stanford University.

Book Details

  • 264 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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