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The Status of Legal Ethics

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Pawel Teodor Skuczynski

The basic aim of the study is to describe the ambiguity of the term legal ethics in the context of different traditions and conceptions. The three most important traditions of legal ethics are: the French, with the categories of virtue and independence, the American, with the ideas of loyalty and professional duties, and the German, with professional roles and obedience. On that base, a theory of critical legal ethics is developed. It claims that the subject of legal ethics consists of three planes – deontological, social and moral. Further it is examined, whether chosen legal-philosophical conceptions contain any legal ethics conceptions and what could be the interdisciplinary research program of legal ethics.

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Chapter 1: Traditions and transformations of legal ethics

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Chapter 1 Traditions and transformations of legal ethics 1.1. Preliminary remarks A discussion of the legal ethics situation includes first of all elements of lawyers' conduct and its justifications referring to what in a given period and a given society is considered as values and moral duties. By this one does not mean studying whether lawyers of a certain age acted morally or not, though this would perhaps solve the problem of the 'moral crisis of legal professions', which is the focus of attention of some part of the discussion on legal ethics1. This solution could consist of showing that, historically, lawyers acted more or less morally than today and so one could speak of worsening or improving of their moral condition. However, there is no sort of research tools to attain this objective, and therefore just posing the problem should be regarded as faulty and solution-finding efforts as pointless. Here, it is more about indicating what lawyers' conduct was considered reprehensible or desired, what criteria were used in this regard and what justifications were offered. Naturally, from the fact that some types of lawyers' behaviours were either continually subjected to regulations, condemned in moral philosophy works or just were a subject of constant complaint, one may presume that such types of behaviour were very common despite efforts to fight them. Nevertheless, these will always be only presumptions and not fully justified conclusions. Traditions and transformations of legal ethics are categories with which one can organise and briefly present the...

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