Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Law professors have a great deal to say about the ethics of law practitioners. We write law review articles about lawyers' professional responsibilities, and we have participated in drafting codes of conduct for practicing lawyers.

Many of us bring to that task a significant perspective. We can be both informed about and detached from the pressures of daily practice. We are free of involvement or (worse yet) identification with particular clients. Indeed, in choosing to become law professors, we have made the choice to dissociate ourselves from contact with clients.

Not surprisingly, therefore, most law professors tend to minimize the interests of clients as against those of third parties (who are frequently characterized as "society").' The suggestion that a client may be analogized to a friend has been treated with derision. The suggestion that clients "are children of God, infinitely valuable, more valuable than any government or all governments"and that rules of lawyers' ethics should be derived from that premise, has been politely ignored, at least in the process of drafting rules of lawyers' ethics.

Since we have chosen not to be involved with clients, it is not surprising that law professors as a group are not champions of clients' interests to the same extent that practitioners are. But what of our students? Since we have chosen to be involved with students, do we champion their interests?Significantly, there is no Model Rules of Professional Conduct for Law Professors in which to seek an answer to that question.That is a partial answer in itself. A codification of professors' professional obligations would necessarily be, to some extent, a codification of correlative student rights. If we were to do that, it certainly would be a significant refutation of Dr. Andrew S. Watson's diagnosis.