Legal ethics are the special rules governing lawyers when they engage in their work.
Legal ethics are the special rules governing lawyers when they engage in their work. Should different rules apply to lawyers than to everyone else when lawyers are performing their professional duties?
Today’s lawyers have been called a modern secular priesthood. One need only think about Judge Judy, her many imitators, and the numerous movies and TV shows about lawyers to realize the place law and lawyers occupy in the public eye.
This concept of a secular priesthood described in the “Recurring Themes in the Law” section and its analogy to clergy is not too distant. The attorney–client privilege is as well enshrined as the priest–penitent privilege. You considered in Unit 1 whether the law should allow lawyers to submit false evidence if it is the only way to exonerate an innocent client, or whether lawyers should be permitted to reveal their clients\’ secrets to save someone’s life, even if it means incriminating the client.
The Truth on Trial video assigned for this unit examines a hypothetical lawsuit over plaintiffs injured by a fire caused by a possibly defective product. Watch how the lawyers conduct themselves and how they justify their tactics. Ask yourself whether you feel the lawyers’ conduct is justified by their goal of winning for their respective clients.
Think back to Unit 4 on bioethics: Is there an analogy to the Hippocratic Oath that admonishes doctors to do no harm? When a lawyer refuses to disclose that their client is guilty or intends to hurt someone, they are protecting their client. Are they harming others?
Recall too the debate over assisted suicide and similar events (e.g., administering lethal injections for capital punishment). Does a doctor violate the Hippocratic Oath in doing so?
Then consider this hypothetical situation:
Confidentiality in Civil Matters
You are general counsel at ABC, Inc., a large publicly traded corporation with thousands of shareholders, which means you are the primary lawyer for ABC. You attend confidential planning meetings of ABC’s executives.
At a recent meeting, Charles, ABC’s chief operating officer, made an announcement about ABC’s wastewater storage facility:
“Folks, I regret to inform you that our tanks are starting to leak. We have no choice but to illegally discharge some highly poisonous wastewater into the sewer system to keep the tanks from failing until Maintenance can repair the leak. Otherwise the tanks may explode, releasing all the water. Fortunately, we have been able to keep it secret from the media.”
Sam, the chief financial officer, agrees that this is the best they can do under the circumstances, and that they must keep the leak, and the plan to discharge further wastewater, confidential.
The executives do not ask your opinion. The meeting adjourns. Linda, president of ABC, is not present, but you know she will read the meeting minutes later and find out what happened.
You want to protect ABC, its officers, and its shareholders, but you are also worried about your own culpability because now you know about this event.
You decide to make a written record of what happened, and of your options as the company’s lawyer, to ensure that you act properly, and also so no one can say you ignored the situation.
Write a 3- to 4-page double-spaced memorandum titled “To the File” in which you explore your options in compliance with ABA MR 1.6. You should (a) state the facts of what happened at the meeting, (b) identify your options, and (c) decide what to do.
Review the confidentiality rule for lawyers in ABA MR 1.6 and its Comment.
Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Legal ethics. http://www.law.cornell.edu/ethics/aba/current/ABA_…
You can and should quote from the MR and the Comment where it assists your analysis.
Recall the Truth on Trial video. Write the memorandum from the perspective that Linda, president of ABC, is going to read the minutes of the meeting. She is going to ask you what you recommend for ABC and what you are going to do, just as the executives asked the lawyers for advice in the video.
Annenberg Learner (1989). Truth on trial [Video]. https://www.learner.org/series/ethics-in-america/t…n addition to fulfilling the specifics of the assignment, a successful paper must also meet the following criteria:
Your submission should include a title page and reference page and be in 10- to 12-point font (Arial, Courier, and Times New Roman are acceptable).
Viewpoint and purpose should be clearly established and sustained.
Assignment should follow the conventions of Standard English (correct grammar, punctuation, etc.).
Writing should be well ordered, logical, and unified as well as original and insightful.
Your work should display superior content, organization, style, and mechanics.
Appropriate citation style should be followed.
You should also make sure to:
Include a title page with full name, class name, section number, and date.
Include introductory and concluding paragraphs and demonstrate college-level communication. through the composition of original materials in Standard English.
Use examples to support your discussion.
List all sources on a separate reference page at the end of your paper and cite them within the body of your paper using APA format and citation style. For more information on APA guidelines, visit Academic Tools.
Requirements: 3-4 pages double spaced
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