DUTIES OF LAWYERS TO CLIENTS
Michael Sean Quinn*
Suppose happy people do better work than those that are unhappy. Suppose that this difference is substantial. If this general proposition is true, i.e., applies to all workers, then lawyers perform better if they are happy than if they are not.
But Ls owe their clients a high duty of performance. For example, they have a duty to pursue the interests of their clients zealously. Section  of the Preamble to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct states, in part, as follows: “As advocate, a lawyer zealously asserts the client’s position under the rules of the adversary system.”
According to this section, Ls have other duties to Cs in this and other different contexts, e.g., those of adviser, negotiator, and/or evaluator. (One might wish to add document conceiving and drafting, perhaps among others.) Given the general truth linking to the quality of performance, as a consequence, to actual happiness (as a cause), it stands to reason that happy lawyers perform these functions better than unhappy, or not so happy, Ls.
Now, Ls are not legally required to do excellent jobs for their Cs. They are only required to do a competent jobs. This is all the Model Rules required in Rule 1.1. But surely Ls owe their clients at least moral duties in addition to legal ones; surely Ls have moral obligations to their Cs as well as legal duties.
(Note that I have assumed that merely competent L do not necessarily do excellent jobs. Many spokes person for Ls would dispute this obviously true proposition, however. Nevertheless, if all competent lawyers do excellent work and if the happiness of L makes L competent and therefore excellent, then perhaps all lawyers have a duty to each client to actually be happy. This will not happen, of course. Imagine a grievance or malpractice case based upon the fact that C’s L was not happy, and so. . . .)
In addition, Ls are fiduciaries of their Cs; the constellation of fiduciary duties is broader than simple loyalty. It requires that Ls place Cs interests ahead of their own, at least within the scope of the representation, and the edges of “scope” are not always crystalline.
If this is true, then Ls have a moral obligations to their clients to, at least, appear to be happy. But if the mere appearance of happiness, as opposed to the presence of actual happiness, is generally recognizable by most people who are Cs, then Ls do not owe Cs only the appearance of happiness. Besides, that is a version of lying to (or making misrepresentations to) Cs. In either case, Ls owe Cs actually being happy).
Hence, if Ls owe Cs actually happiness, then they also have a duty to be happy. If they are not they have a duty to become so. (Sometimes alcohol or drug based unhappiness can be conquered, and sometimes it can be handled through Twelve Step programs.)
If they can make themselves happy, without external assistance, they have an obligation to do that. If they cannot do it for themselves or by such programs as “The Twelve Step” programs,” often unlikely or unfitting courses, then Ls have a duty to find a satisfactory type of happiness-producing therapy and pursue it. If it has costs (and it usually will), then L has a duty to buy it. (After all, it can be regarded as a kind of investment, if not an actual business expense.)
One last set of points. If L must for moral reason be happy when serving a client, how happy must s/he be? Obviously, maximal happiness, whatever that might be, is not required. Indeed, most of us don’t really know what it might be. One is inclined to think that the sufficiently happy L must be more happy than the average competent L, and perhaps more happy than the L of average happiness.
In addition, must the required level of happiness, in general, be continuous or merely continual. Moreover, is unhappiness forbidden during the entire time length of a given representation, or only when L is actually working on this or that case. This might be called “temporally horizontal happiness requirement.”
Of course there are other horizontal requirements. One might be a “client-to-client horizontal happiness requirement.” If L is happy dealing with C#1, but is unhappy in dealing with C#2, and there is some chance that L’s happiness level is diminished by having to deal with C#2, does L have a duty to C#1 to get rid of C#2?
This is a wholly new conflict of interest possibility, of course, though it may concern only moral obligations. Conflicts amongst obligations to clients are not the only problem. Standard legally obligatory conflicts can be other than L with too many clients. there can be conflict problems between L and C. Thus, if happiness is required of L when representing C, how can L represent a C s/he dislikes, dislikes intensely, or hates?
(If you think that the foregoing is sophistry, illogical, or for some reason absurd, you are invited to find and count the fallacies.)
*Michael Sean Quinn, Ph.D. and J.D., Etc.
Quinn and Quinn
1300 West Lynn Suite 208
Austin, TX 78703
Office Phone: 512-296-2594
Quinn and Quinn
Originally posted on 03/25/2016 @ 9:38 pm