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Should Candidates for Admission to the Bar be Examined on the Subject of Legal Ethics
and Professional Deportment?
The question answcred by
DAVID J. BREWER, Associate Justice United States Supreme Court.
THINK candidates for admission to the bar should be examined on the sub
ject of legal ethics and professional deportment. The standing of the profession is to be determined, not merely by a knowledge of the law, but also by the character of the lawyer. Of course, an applicant's knowledge of the law may be shown quite satisfactorily by a thorough examination, while his character is not so easily determined; and yet an inquiry of what, under stated circumstances, he would consider the proper professional conduct, will disclose his knowledge and reveal his appreciation of the ethical obligations of a lawyer. Such an examination may be no guaranty against hypocrisy, but few men are intentional
hypocrites. At any rate, the examination will show the applicant that there are resting upon the profession ethical obligations of supreme importance, and he will enter upon the practice impressed with the conviction that he must pay due regard to them in order to attain a high position.
DAVID J. BREWER. Associate Justice United States Supreme Court.
EYOND doubt, candidates for admission to the bar should be instructed
in legal ethics and professional deportment, and should be examined upon these subjects. If the State Bar Examiners would put into their examination questions a hypothetical question involving some practical question of ethics, and another hypothetical question involving some practical matter of professional deportment, they would thereby call attention to a most important and much neglected branch of professional education. In time, of course, lawyers educate each other upon such subjects; and keen, bright, just minds usually reach just and proper conclusions upon them. The difficulty is that the young lawyer comes to the bar from the Law School with a theoretical knowledge of the law, but with a very inadequate preparation as to the practical, ethical side of it. Too many of the young men get the impression from the common speech of people that a lawyer can and will do anything that will not land him in state's prison, if he is paid an adequate fee for it. By instruction in the law schools, and by examinations when they are admitted to practice, they should learn that the bench and the bar take an entirely different view of ethical questions. They should learn early in their studies, before financial necessities have tempted them more than they can bear, that there is no great future for any lawyer who does not live up to ethical standards that are much higher than those of most citizens, most business men, most corporation managers, most politicians, most officials, and even most Christians.
ADELBERT Moot. Buffalo, N. Y.
HAVE no hesitation in answering this question in the affirmative. I look
upon the maintenance of a high standard of legal ethics as being as important to the client as is a high standard of learning and intelligence. Alone upon the maintenance of this standard rests the confidence that the client should have in the integrity of his counsel. Without it, the greater the legal ability, the more disastrous it is to the client. No one outside of the profession, and not many inside of it, realize the number of instances wherein arises the question of professional ethics; that is to say, the absolute fairness and frankness and mental honesty that alone justify the employment of counsel. To throw upon the world a young lawyer, entirely or even slightly ignorant of the rules that should govern him in such cases, is unfair to him as well as to his clients. Unless thoroughly learned as a course of study, the knowledge of ethics cannot be acquired until the necessity for the application of its rules becomes apparent, and often this necessity does not become apparent, because the young practitioner does not suspect that any question of ethics is involved, and he scommits a breach of professional duty thoughtlessly, but one that, none the less, is injurious both to his client and to himself. Differing from the questions in