Legal ethics, professional responsibility, and professionalism are timely topics as lawyers continually reevaluate the standards of their profession, particularly in light of the challenges of multidisciplinary and multijurisdictional practice, as well as the embarrassment facing lawyers involved in and surrounding the Enron collapse. In this article, our goal is to discuss how to think and talk about ethics and professionalism. By way of preview, we need to understand that ethics and professionalism use different vocabularies and, consequently, talk past each other to some extent. Our hope is that understanding the existence of these two vocabularies helps reduce the misunderstanding. Both the areas of legal ethics and of professionalism are dynamic and both are a part of legal education and continuing professional education. Legal ethics and professional responsibility have been a required part of legal education since Watergate. Today, professionalism and professional training are becoming an increasing part of law school and post law school instruction. This article traces briefly the history of legal ethics in the United States and discusses the fundamental conflict that prevents aspiration and discipline from residing in the same space. Then it elaborates on the concept of professionalism and discusses current efforts to give content to professionalism for purposes of teaching it to law students and promoting it with lawyers.
Tomain, Joseph P. and Watts, Barbara, "Between Law and Virtue" (2002). Faculty Articles and Other Publications. Paper 112.