Before (and after) I became a lawyer, I taught philosophy, and one of the areas in which I “specialized” was ethics. After I became a lawyer, I continued thinking about such matters and took up “legal ethics” as a topic of reflection. (I guess I also taught the topic some too.)
Often the phrase “legal ethics” refers to a code (or set of codes) governing the conduct of lawyers. There are a number of them in America. They vary slightly on a state by state basis, and there is something like a code for federal courts. These codes are like statutes, but vaguer and created by state bar associations then “stamped” by Supreme Courts in various states. To a considerable extent these sets of rules govern penalties lawyers may suffer for more or less specified misconduct up too and including disbarment, i.e., expulsion from the realm of legal lawyering.
Of course, lawyers have a very special status in all countries and communities. For this reason, their conduct is especially important. Thus there must be ethics for lawyers in addition to “legal ethics.” I’ve always wondered what various philosophers might have said that would provide relevant wisdom. In fact, all philosophers who think about ethics have had (and continue to have) relevant things to say regarding proper, acceptable, superior, etc., lawyer conduct. Often they didn’t realize the implications what they said had for the bar.
Quite by accident, one day, I ran across a then new translation of the ANALECTS of Confucius. I had never read it. After spending a rainy weekend reading it, I came to the conclusion that his outlook–his system of wisdom–should be shared with other lawyers. The link to this “preface” is what I came up with.
Law Office of Michael Sean Quinn