Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The American public has long viewed the legal profession with a puzzling mixture of respect and envy tempered by distaste and mistrust.' Nevertheless, Americans especially are amenable to invoking judicial processes when a wrong is perceived.' This tendency has led to the well-publicized problems of overcrowded dockets and lengthy trial proceedings, both of which contribute to making the American legal system the most expensive in the world. Commentators, the legal community, and other citizens increasingly criticize the litigiousness of the American legal system. The legal profession generally is exempt from governmental regulation because the bar adopts and enforces its own internal standards.'These standards, which attempt to instill in the bar a sense of ethics and proper moral conduct, appear in the Model Code of Professional Responsibility' (the Code) and the more recent Model Rules of Professional Conduct (the Rules)." The Code and the Rules both stress the high standards of integrity and competence that attorneys owe to their clients and to the public in general. The Code and the Rules also re-quire attorneys to enforce the standards by reporting any violations by their colleagues.' Moreover, the Code requires attorneys to exhibit respect for the law by at all times "refrain[ing] from all illegal and morally reprehensible conduct."' Despite these ethical criteria, many commentators perceive the legal profession as amoral, or even immoral. Attorneys typically attempt to justify overzealous, far-reaching behavior as a manifestation of the lawyer's duty diligently to represent his client and as an important factor in the adversary system. This duty compels the lawyer to do "all that the laws or the Constitution allows." Perhaps the most unusual and beneficial attribute of the American attorney is his devotion to and zeal in representing his client. This same broad allegiance, however, has contributed to society'slow esteem for the legal process and to the need for external regulation of lawyers.