Some years ago, en route to an international meeting on legal ethics, I had a spectacularly unsuccessful interchange on the topic at the passport control desk. It was a slow evening, and an obviously bored Canadian official launched a series of questions about the ‘business purpose’ of my trip. Where was I giving a lecture? On what? Who had squandered Canadian taxpayers’ dollars on a subject as futile as legal ethics? ‘Bit of an oxymoron, don’t you think?’ This did not seem a particularly promising forum for my views on lawyers’

integrity, so I let the question pass as rhetorical. Yet the incident did aptly capture one discomfiting by-product of the Bar’s failure to take more seriously certain ethical dimensions of the professional role. Too often, when lawyers come together to address broad themes like integrity, the tone resembles that captured in a classic New Yorker cartoon. It features two monks gliding through cloisters, with one protesting, ‘I am too holier than thou.’ The American Bar Association’s recent campaign for a Renaissance of Idealism was a classic case in point, with public relations billboards, exhortatory resolutions, and ‘I am an Idealist’ buttons.1