HomeLegal:  Legal Ethics: Not an Oxymoron

Ethics in the Legal Profession

Although some critics of lawyers and attorneys may argue that “legal ethics” is an oxymoron, legal ethics actually refers to a code of professional standards and responsibilities applicable to anyone involved in the legal system, including lawyers, judges, etc. Legal professionals, especially lawyers, often encounter serious ethical dilemmas in the course of their work due to the necessity of interpretation of law and the difficulties involved with dealing with controversial issues or people. Most lawyers, despite any negative reputation that may have received over the years, are very concerned about remaining ethical in their chosen profession and strive to be professionally responsible in all aspects of their job.

Legal Ethics: The Issues Involved

There are many issues that can fall under the umbrella heading of legal ethics. Deciding whether or not to defend a client can have serious implications because everyone—even the presumed guilty—deserve a dedicated defense but many lawyers do not feel that it is ethical or moral to defend someone they believe or know to be guilty. Constructing the defensive arguments can also have ethical implications because lawyers must decide what arguments or evidence they are willing to use in order to get the verdict ruled in their client’s favor. Is it really ethical to argue that someone who is guilty of murder should be exonerated because the police did not appropriately follow legal investigative procedures?

The issue of legal ethics is both so complicated and important that entire organizations and departments have been developed to help in the discourse of legal ethics. The Ethics Department of the Center for Professional Responsibility studies, develops and implements model standards pertaining to legal and judicial ethics. This body is responsible for producing informative publications that are intended to help and educate legal professionals and the public. Although no one person, group, or organization can strictly determine a specific code of ethics, efforts to contribute to the discussion on the topic continually heighten awareness and encourage professional responsibility and an adherence to ethical standards.

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