The Legal Ethicist
by S. Goodsayer
It may be appropriate in the first place to inform you, gentle reader, that I intend, monthly, to offer, in this esteemed publication, a short discourse on the nature of the ethical lawyer, which I presume will add somewhat to your enlightenment, or at least your entertainment.
And since it is often observed within the profession on which I intend to pontificate that until they are informed in some measure of the bona fides of the author, namely whether he be young or old, practitioner or judge, trial lawyer or litigator, pin stripes or polyester, etc., etc., they are incapable of forming a full and frank opinion of the performances to be witnessed, it may not be unsuitable to begin with a brief account of my past life and present condition, so that you may judge whether or not my polemics are worth reading.
At the time of my birth, I was slapped with the counsel that a life in the law is the greatest aspiration of man. Having suffered two immediate injuries, I could not contemplate the added admonition that such a calling is a jealous mistress, not simply because the ways of the world were as yet unknown to me, but, too, the fact that a mistress of any sort was unfathomable, given my mutilated condition. No opsimath, I dutifully followed the dictates of authority, bending to their will when required, suffering the indignities of persecution by my peers who preferred to spend their time on lesser pursuits, learning inkhorn terms that would one day allow me to demonstrate my erudition in the learned profession, until finally I achieved my goal—a perfect ranking within my eminent law school, together with all the easements and appurtenances thereto—a multitude of courtesans from 17th Street and beyond offering me riches and power and prestige and, yes, even a secretary to assist me in my pursuit of justice. The world was my oyster.
In the beginning years of practice, in dark corners surrounded by tomes, before dictating machines propagating discovery, the odor of success was vaguely offensive—rather like the cloying smell of a perfume worn by one’s beloved. Nonetheless, through years of toil, I became addicted to the scent, although by then it resembled more the burning of stubble. Eventually, nothing stood in the way of my responsibility to my clients. My zealotry was unbounded and unbundled. My practice thrived. I called myself a trial lawyer.
Now, as I reflect on my own record; as I ponder the attorney I was and have become; as I survey the residuum of a life in the law, I ask myself, "Did I ennoble myself and the profession, or did I leave it a baser place?"
Kind reader, such questions are the fodder for this column. The questions that are not answered by our learned texts but instead demand a deeper inquiry; the questions that implicate our legacy and not simply our dedication. I ask you not only to indulge me in meditations on my conundrums but indeed to provide me with yours. I ask that you send me the queries, which, in still moments, lead you to ponder your own legacy. Not that my answer will, on every occasion, be unerring, but that as I wander the halls of justice those few more times, I may at least imagine myself to be:
—Your Humble Servant
Each month, The Legal Ethicist will opine on an ethical issue related to the practice of law. Readers are asked to write The Legal Ethicist, anonymously, with their ethics questions. Letters should be sent by email to: TheLegalEthicist@aol.com. The opinions expressed in The Legal Ethicist are solely.