Walk the tight rope

Standards at the Bar have fallen  for several reasons including,

“larger chambers and greater mobility between chambers as they compete for shrinking quantity of work from solicitors. This means that collegiate peer pressure to maintain ethics for the benefit of the group or chambers was weakened. The days of feeling free to share an ethical burden with the head of chambers and take advice are gone. Heads of Chambers are more like marketing tools these days. As a result, ethics has diminished as a subject or focus of legal practice. It’s been pushed out by structural changes“.  LuminiferousEther

‘LuminiferousEther’ was responding to the Guardian Law tweet that alerted ‘we internet fishers’ to the comments from UCL Professor Richard Moorhead about ethics and lawyers. Professor Moorhead contends that some lawyers walk “a dangerous and sometimes untenable path because commercially and culturally they were disposed to defend the client to the death.” He goes on to suggest that “the culture of clientelism needs a long hard look”.

Law director Sylvie Delacroix supports Richard Moorhead: “the gap between personal morality and professional ethics has grown wide in recent years. And as we have seen, conforming to professional standards isn’t always enough”.

Fascinatingly for the blogger, Silvie Delacroix suggests that an answer to the ethical issue facing lawyers would be to “promote space for discussion”. We should respond more like doctors, sharing ethical issues; and we should prioritise the teaching of ethics as part of lawyer training. Perhaps this landscape of thinking goes some way to justify the barrister’s blog – open to all, wide ranging, inclusive discussion; rather than secretive ‘commenteering’ by professionals behind closed doors.

As a profession, are we in danger of prioritising ‘outcome focus’ rather than ‘doing what is right’? The adversarial process certainly drives ‘outcomes’ rather than ‘fairness’. What part of our duty involves ‘fairness’?

In the ‘Fair Minded and Informed Observer‘ we considered the burgeoning pressure on the legal profession to identify and promote fairness.  And in ‘The Price is Right‘ the blogger refers to the prospect of third party investment in litigation, and the recent development of chambers wholly owned by a holding company. When lawyers are owned by hedge funds – what then about professional ethics?

With thanks to Alex Aldridge

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