chapter  10
Educating lawyers to be ethical advisers
Pages 23

Introduction The subject of this essay was first suggested in 1993 when Griffith University was designing its coursework Masters in Law. In consulting the local profession as to what was lacking in the LLM courses then available, we were intrigued when Elizabeth Nosworthy, a senior partner of one of Australia’s largest and most successful law firms, suggested that lawyers should be taught ethics – not so much for themselves but for their clients. Her view was that clients needed more than just legal advice. They needed, and were increasingly seeking, ‘whole of business’ advice. They had gone beyond asking lawyers for the legal consequences of potential decisions and accountants for the financial consequences. Some of them were asking: ‘what do you think I should do?’ In her view, lawyers should be the natural profession to whom clients should turn for such advice – and should be educated accordingly. This is a tantalizing suggestion because it is so contrary to the received image of lawyers as the most amoral of professions – yet so suggestive of what a nobler role for lawyers might entail. In this essay we examine the arguments against the capacity and appropriateness of lawyers as sources of ethical advice and suggest that these arguments are based upon a number of flawed assumptions about the nature of law, ethics, legal practice and the lawyer-client relationship. We will consider the reasons why it might be in the interests of clients to receive a richer mix of ethics in their legal advice, citing a number of case studies. The implications of these changes for the role of lawyers and the ways in which legal education might be modified to equip them more effectively for this role are considered next. We will conclude by considering how lawyers might convince clients of the need for ethical advice and the legal profession’s ability to provide it.