Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The dominant ethic in the American legal profession in 1988 is the adversary ethic. The adversary ethic, in the words of the late Justice Abe Fortas, claims that "[l]awyers are agents, not principals; and they should neither criticize nor tolerate criticism based upon the character of the client whom they represent or the cause that they prosecute or defend. They cannot and should not accept responsibility for the client's practices." This ethic is the principal-and often the only-reference point in professional discussions. Although it is embedded in our professional codes, our cases, and our law offices, this Article argues that the adversary ethic is unique, novel, and unsound.