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Paperback The Moral Compass of the American Lawyer: Truth, Justice, Power, and Greed Book

ISBN: 0449006719

ISBN13: 9780449006719

The Moral Compass of the American Lawyer: Truth, Justice, Power, and Greed

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Book Overview

These are perilous times for Americans who need access to the legal system. Too many lawyers blatantly abuse power and trust, engage in reckless ethical misconduct, grossly unjust billing practices, and dishonesty disguised as client protection. All this has undermined the credibility of lawyers and the authority of the legal system. In the court of public opinion, many lawyers these days are guiltier than the criminals or giant corporations they...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

influential exploration of nuances of adversary theorem

Intended for popular consumption, Zitrin & Langford provide a riveting, accessible exploration of the ethical ambiguities posed by the adversary theorem in legal practice. The adversary theorem, the core of American legal practice, asserts that zealous advocacy on behalf of clients will serve the ultimate cause of justice even if lawyers engage in otherwise questionable behavior because the competition between lawyers who engage in the same practices ensures that justice will ultimately prevail. Folks looking to denounce lawyers lightly will find little sympathy for lawyers by reading the cases in this book. Rather than consider the implications of the billable hours or the justifications for Frank Armani's interpretation of confidentiality, they'll rush to denounce. It's always easy to pre-judge. That's why lawyers exist. Zitrin & Langford are less interested in denouncing the adversary theorem than in examining its effect in the real world. The proposals they offer mesh with developments that occurred after their book. The American Bar Association revised its model rules in 2002. Harvard Law School added a pro bono requirement for all students. Law firms tout their pro bono service prominently on their websites, sometimes more prominently than they tout their client list. Zitrin & Langford add considerably to serious discussion about the application of ethics to legal practice - a perpetual discussion that will last so long as humans disagree.

A clear, engrossing, and important commentary on lawyering.

I am a paralegal, and have worked in the legal field for 23 years. I could not put this book down. I have been talking about it since I turned the pages of the first chapter. I recommend it to everyone; I plan to read it again, and when it is not in use, I place it in plain sight of the lawyers with whom I work. Langford and Zitrin have written an important commentary about the practice of law that is easy reading for non-lawyers without being condescending. But their book should be required reading for every lawyer. It is as if someone finally mentioned the elephant in the center of the room.How did the profession get this far afield? Clients are served less and less while more lawyers are churned out of law schools, and competition is fierce. Money talks; clients at the lower end of the economic scale get less effective counsel or simply try to solve problems without representation. The legal profession has evolved into a business to survive; but, along the way, its vision has deteriorated with regard to justice, public service, and what is morally right.The fact pattern presented at the beginning of each chapter had me guessing about its outcome as I read on regarding actual, related cases. The anecdotal evidence of injustice and moral dilemma is overwhelming. These are not just occasional news items. They are things that happen every day to lawyers and ordinary people. I loved their straightfoward and common sense proposals for solutions to make the practice of law better for everyone involved. If only the legal profession, which, as they point out, largely regulates itself, had the courage to implement them.Just read it, okay?

Catalog of all the Ethical Problems; Short on Solutions

Zitrin and Langford challenge those in the legal profession to aspire towards a higher standard than the billable hour. They do well at illustrating the ethical conflicts lawyers face daily with examples from cases that stretch the limits of honest representation. In the end, however, attorneys looking for ethical guidance or for ways out of the ethical dilemmas and conflicts Zitrin and Langford present, will be a little disappointed as the authors only catalog the extremes and the abuses without ever offering solutions; these extremes and abuses are the same cases and examples lawyers were presented with in law school and agonized over in ethics courses. A young member of the profession looking for some guidance from these experienced attorneys will unfortunately find no guidance forthcoming, so in this respect, Zitgrin and Langford do no more than cast stones. Yet the book is extremely valuable as it forces the attorney to return to those law school hypotheticals and ethics dilemmas and wrestle with them once again, this time from the perspective of one who has experienced the pressures to pad the timesheet, to withhold the discovery request, and to justify what most folks would call "lies" as zealous representation. Zitrin and Langford also illustrate that there is often a huge gap between what is ethical and what is moral, and for these reasons, this book should be taught in the law schools along with the Model Rules and the case books.

Though-provoking and entertaining; a sure page-turner.

The book completely hooked me, and I wished it wouldn't end. It reads like a thriller; each chapter discusses a different issue, and you really want to know what happens to the protagonist. While the subject matter may sound esoteric and dry, this book certainly isn't; and I think it should be essential reading for non-lawyers. I learnt a lot, especially about how I may be screwed by class-action lawyers without even knowing it! The other thing I learnt was how good it is to be an unethical lawyer: you can make a damn good living with hardly any risk!

A must-read. Better, and more engrossing, than fiction!

We've all heard the lawyer jokes. We all suspect that "guilty" or "not guilty" is determined largely by how much you're willing to pay for representation. We think there's only a tenuous relationship, at best, bewteen "truth" and "justice". And we believe slimeball lawyers - the ones who ignore professional ethics and responsibility - are the root problem of a deteriorating US legal system. What this book does, and does well, is illuminate problems of legal ethics and morality, and in a highly engaging style. The authors present numerous real-life accounts - many nearly unbelievable - of the actual behavior of some lawyers. And they put them in the context of our flawed legal system. But they also show how it can be improved. Provocative and highly recommended.
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