Monday, November 23, 2015

Chapter 8 of Developing Your Professional Identity: Creating Your Inner Lawyer

Developing Your Professional Identity: Creating Your Inner Lawyer (2015).

Chapter Eight: The Legal Profession and Society

This chapter's purpose is to help students understand how the legal profession views itself and how society views the legal profession.  It takes a unique pedagogical approach to teaching students about the legal profession: it presents quotes about lawyers and the legal system then asks students to reflect on those quotes.


A. Reason as the Basis of Law.

Reason as the Basis of the Law: Sir Edward Coke

“Reason is the life of the law; nay, the common law itself is nothing else but reason…The law, which is perfection of reason.”
Sir Edward Coke

Reflection Questions

  1. What does Coke mean by this quote?
  2. Do you agree with Coke?

B. Law as Experience.

The Nature of the Law: Justice Holmes

“The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Reflection Questions

1. What does this quote mean?
2. Do you agree?
3. How does Holmes’s view differ from those of Coke, Johnson, and Aristotle?

E. The Common Good as the Basis of Law.

A Republican View of the Origin of Ethics Codes

“The consensus among leading commentators on legal ethics issues is that the legal ethics codes embody an adversarial ethic. An examination of the historical roots of the legal ethics codes in the work of George Sharswood, a nineteenth century jurist and scholar provides an alternative interpretation. Although largely ignored by commentators today, Sharswood's essay on ethics was the original source of most of the modern legal ethics codes. Sharswood believed that a lawyer's principal obligation was the republican pursuit of the community's common good even where it conflicts with either her client's or her own interests. Sharswood defined the common good as the protection of order, liberty, and property in order to provide individual with the opportunity to perfect themselves.”


  1. What is the republican view of legal ethics?
  2. How does having a republican view of the role of the legal system affect lawyers’ professional identities?
  3. Which basis of law do you think is better?
  4. How does our modern view of the legal system reflect these bases?

G. Utilitarianism as the Basis of Law.

“The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.”
Jeremy Bentham

Reflection Questions

  1. What does this quote mean?
  2. Do you agree?
  3. What are the alternatives to utilitarianism?
  4. How does Bentham’s concept of law differ those of the other authors in this section?
  5. How does Bentham’s view affect individual rights?
  6. Is our legal system based on utilitarianism? Partially?
  7. Reflect on how a system based entirely on utilitarianism would look.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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