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Legal Ethics Is Law A Business Or

A Profession. Essay, Research Paper

In this essay there will firstly be a definition of what is meant by the word profession , although there are changing ideals about this. This will then be used to look at what elements the modern law profession has from the definition. There will be a discussion about the lawyers duty as an officer of the court. The lawyers civic responsibilities will be explored. The requirement of rules and regulations will be considered. Then a definition of a business will be presented. It will be discussed how the legal profession is becoming more like a business. The regard modern lawyers have for the rules will be talked about. The lack of reporting by the Law Societies with regard to disciplinary hearings will be mentioned.

Firstly a definition if what exactly is meant by the word profession . It is defined as a vocation or occupation requiring special, normally advanced, education which brings with it unique knowledge and skill. The activity and skill required in the profession is essentially mental or intellectual. Profession also suggests a certain stature and prestige and implies that the activity to which it is attached possesses a special dignity that other jobs do not. It seems that a profession also controls the education of existing and potential members. It also has an organisation which controls its own decision making and the members of the profession must conform with the code of ethical conduct laid out by such an organisation.

It is also argued by many academic observers that in a profession there is a duty to serve the good of the public , for an example of such academics see A. Kronman and P. Brown.

It seems that in today s world lawyers still have twin sets of values. One being that aforementioned duty to serve the good of the community as a whole. the other , lesser, duty being to serve their individual clients. the public service element has always been a linchpin of this particular profession. There is a duty as an officer and right arm of the court. The contemporary legal practitioner must be able to serve their client whilst upholding the integrity of their duty to their country, where these two duties conflict the lawyer will be bound to follow their duty to their country. In other words the lawyer always has a duty to see that the legal system maintains its integrity. There is also the reality based point that any given lawyer must be able to trust that the other practitioner they are dealing with in any manner of transaction is also answer questions truthfully.

Another arm of this public service element of professionalism is the requirement that today s lawyer should engage in some manner of pro bono activity. In some large law firms this is encouraged through involvement in countless public interest projects such as representation of the poor, legal word provided for a public charity (Such as taxation help.) and representation to quasi-public bodies. This civic responsibility ideal is again a characteristic of a profession. Also there is the continuation of legal training, even when one has already attained their law degree.

There is a clear and obvious public interest in these standards remaining. the public interest is guarded by the legal professions regulator, the New Zealand Law Society. The rules for the legal profession are laid down in both the Law Practitioners Act and in the Rules of Professional Conduct. These, combined, protect matters at the heart of what the public would view as necessary for the legal profession, for example………………………………..

The legal profession still retains some attributes that would make the label profession a truthful one.

Now the definition of what is meant by the term business is one that seems, at least historically, easier to articulate than that of a profession. A business is any employment, occupation, or commercial activity engaged in for gain or livelihood; that which busies or engages the attention, labor and effort of persons as a principal, serious concern or interest for livelihood, benefit, advantage or profit.

No longer can it be said that law is a profession apart, untouched by the marketplace. A point that illustrates this proposition is the competitive environment of the legal profession. With the ever increasing number of lawyers in society there is obviously going to be more competition. In this environment the law firms have to operate like a business. The present day American law profession has become in many respects a bottom line business . This seems to hold true for the New Zealand legal profession as well as its American equivalent.

Another factor pointing towards a more business like operation of the legal profession is the stature with which the rules of professional conduct are regarded in the contemporary New Zealand legal climate. The Cotter-Roper report suggests that breaches of these rules are treated rather lightly. The report also states that legal ethics as a whole concept are starting to decline generally. This, it is suggested. is because firms need the work to survive in the modern day market for legal services and will ignore some rules where they, the rules, are inconvenient.

The report also suggests that there is no valid reporting of disclipinary hearings. A fact which was easily verified by a short phone conversation with the Canterbury District Law Society. It is suggested that because of this there is no set standard of punishments. For example, for what one does in Auckland they could get a $10000 fine, whereas for the same infringement in Christchurch they could get a fine of only $5000.

At the time the report was published ethics was not a compulsory part of the law undergraduate courses and because of this ethics was thought to be, by students, of lesser importance than the so called core subjects. This has now been rectified, ethics is a compulsory course of undergraduate legal study. If what the report suggests is the reality then this does not bode well for the legal profession retaining it label as a profession in the eyes of the traditionalists.

In the modern legal profession one third of the profession are members of firms with 10 or more practitioners. Some of the largest firms are so sizeable and spread throughout many different cities that the partners do not even know each other. The size of these law firms rivals other substantial commercial enterprises. As well as this legal firms are part of the Business Roundtable. The effectiveness of informal monitoring and the importance placed on peer approval markedly decline when law firms become this large. The focus is shifted to financial incentives which could lead to a drop in ethical standards. There is also the flip side of large firms. In fact 20% of New Zealand legal practitioners are in small firms of one, two or three. These lawyers, when isolated, face minimal scrutiny to maintain reasonable ethical standards. The Law Societies job of supervising all these lawyers is a difficult and extremely expensive task. When there is no enforcement of the rules it could be seen as the law society condoning certain breaches. One could ask, if it is not being prosecuted when it is breached then why have it at all?

As mentioned before there is increased competition with the legal practice. With increased competition it has meant there is a greater need for one firm to distinguish itself from another. This has meant an increase in print advertisments, business cards and all manner of advertisments. However it does seem that the social acceptence of lawyers advertising has risen, to what extent it has risen though is undefined. This seems to stem directly from the fact that prospective clients have a larger group from where they can get their legal services and they want to know if they are getting a good deal. This may mean a shift in the client-lawyer relationship. the client know may be able to threaten the lawyer with taking their business elsewhere if certain rules are not bent. However this remains to be seen.

There is also the fact that some large corporations have legal departments, with lawyers who are paid a salary called in house council. these lawyers are required only to work for the large corporation. This effectively divides lawyers into different lines of work and in doing this reduces shared lawyer experiences. This is comparable to the assembly line of Henry Ford, where each worker was a specialist. The only difference would be that instead of being an expert at putting on wheels one lawyer would be an expert at avoiding tax.

The legal profession has had to adapt in this modern day free market economy. This has meant that some aspects of business have been incorporated into the lawyers work. A new breed of law firms have emerged.