The Usefulness of Ethical Codes

Document Type


Publication Date





Annual Survey of American Law




In 1986, the American Bar Association's House of Delegates endorsed a report which offered a "Blueprint for the Rekindling of Lawyer Professionalism."' Lawyers were urged to pursue "principle" over "profit ' " 2 and to abide by higher standards of conduct than the minimum required by the profession's disciplinary rules.3 This past year has witnessed a flurry of bar association activity aimed at implementing the recommendations of the professionalism report. On the part of the ABA, this activity culminated in the House of Delegates' decision last August to adopt four concrete proposals, each involving a statement of professional aspirations to be followed on a purely voluntary basis.4 These statements include a recommendation that lawyers perform no less than fifty hours per year of pro bono or other public service activity, ten "aspirational goals" for lawyer advertising (including the avoidance of "inappropriately dramatic music, unseemly slogans, hawkish spokespersons, [and] premium offers") and two model codes of professional courtesy.5 The sample "Lawyer's Creed of Professionalism," proposed by the Torts and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS),6 consists of thirty-three aspirational goals designed to eliminate a "win-above-all-else, 'hardball' litigation philosophy" 7 through a series of promises, for example, to "act with dignity, [to] avoid making groundless objections and [to] refrain from engaging in acts of rudeness and disrespect." 8 The second model code, the Young Lawyers Division's "Pledge of Professionalism," consists of twelve short and simple statements, such as, "I will remember that the practice of law is first and foremost a profession, and I will subordinate business concerns to professionalism concerns." 9

This document is currently not available here.

Link to Publisher Site (BU Community Subscription)