The Secularization of the Legal Profession

Over at Mirror of Justice, Rob Vischer (St. Thomas – Minnesota) has an interesting post about a presentation he made last week, at a conference at Notre Dame, about the secularization of the legal profession over the last century. As evidence, he gives the very good example of the move from the “‘moral law’” standard of the 1908 ethical canons to today’s more agnostic approach. Although under the 1908 canons lawyers had a duty to provide moral advice to clients, nowadays moral advice is optional, and, in fact, subtly disfavored. The contemporary lawyer must find a way to achieve the client’s ends within the bounds of the law; we leave questions of morality mostly to the client. As it happens, I made a presentation on this very subject last month at the Forum 2000 Conference in Prague, in which I argued that the new approach is not the abdication of morality, exactly, but the substitution of a morality of individualism for one based on consensus moral norms derived from religion. (A video of the talk is here). Rob has a paper in the works that will no doubt be, like all his scholarship, well worth the reading. – MLM

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