The question of what makes a good lawyer can be answered in two ways.

(1) A good lawyer gives the best advice possibe to its client which helps his/her client choosing the best legal action or
(2) A good lawyer gives the best legal advice to its client which helps his/her client in choosing the best legal action.

To answer this question we all know that almost every legal action has a moral, financial, emotional/psychological or social impact on a client. Respection the autonomy of the client makes that a lawyer should not only talk about the legal issues of a case but also should inform the client about these other elements. Only then the client can make an autonomous choice what he (legally) wants in his/her case. So my option is the first.

Why? In the specialized legal world we live in this would increase the chance that the client will return in upcoming issues. In the end the consequences are most probably the best for the lawyer (and with that the sadly conclusion that in todays specialized-world the lawyer who gives moral advise will be marginalized, can be forgotten). Also will respecting the clients autonomy in being honest (to give an example of a value) encompass the more deontological ethical approaches. Prima-facie-obligations? No problem.

This I want my student to feel. In one course I always give marks in opposite with its results. Bad papers get A's, good papers get a F. Then I say "he, you should have asked". The next week I give a surprice test on something they should not have read. The last week I am not coming to class, just waiting nearby till almost every student is gone. Then I go and give only the students who waited a good score. In the final class (mandatory) I ask my students if they feld hesitated to come and how they feel in general about this course. You can imagine the reactions. They were not taken seriously, it was not fair and so on. Years later they still remember this course and how honesty, responsibility and autonomy are related.


- Do we have to keep having this conversation?, LegalEthicsForum, 10-10-2009