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Making lawyers moral : Ethical codes and moral character

Nicolson, Donald (2005) Making lawyers moral : Ethical codes and moral character. Legal Studies, 25 (4). pp. 601-626. ISSN 0261-3875

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Abstract

This article argues that professional codes of conduct cannot perform the important task of ensuring that lawyers uphold high ethical standards. Instead, moral behaviour by lawyers requires the development of fixed behavioural attributes relevant to legal practice - what may be called a lawyer's professional moral character. At the same time, however, along with other factors, professional codes are important in that they can either contribute to or detract from the successful development of professional moral character. If so, it is argued that in order to have the best chance of assisting the character development of lawyers, codes should neither take the form of highly detailed or extremely vague, aspirational norms, but should instead guide ethical decision-making by requiring them to consider a wide range of contextual factors when resolving ethical dilemmas.