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31 Val. U. L. Rev. 879 (1996-1997)


The title of this Lecture is from Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird. The occasion for the proposition is when the smalltown southern gentleman-lawyer Atticus Finch is given an opportunity to lie to protect his son from harm. He refuses. He says that the most important thing he has for his son is not protection but integrity. He says, "I can't live one way in town and another way in my home. "

The separation of town from home is an old one in the history of lawyers in America. When you trace the nineteenth-century development of legal ethics, from David Hoffman's first Resolutions on Professional Deportment, of 1817, through the first A.B.A. Canons of 1908, you find the exact separation of moral spheres that you find in Robert Service's law practice: On the "town" side there is an exalted ideology that doesn't dig in enough to be either insight or persuasion. When you focus on, say, the 1890s, you notice that American law-firm ideology is like the portraits of dead partners on the law-office wall: It is for announcement, not for disputation. The town side of a lawyer's life, at least since the days of the robber barons, has invoked an exalted set of grand words while it lived by a consistently crude set of professional rules that would not, and did not, get in the way of getting ahead.


Reprinted with permission of Valparaiso University Law Review.



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