Ethics of Public Discourse

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Long title: 
Lawyers in Public Discourse: the Ethics of the Lobby, Response to Consultations, Public Education, Political Action and the Talk Show
Author(s): 
Ferris, Graham
Johnson, Nick
Author(s)' contact information: 
Nottingham Trent University, UK
Conference title: 
International Legal Ethics Conference VI
Conference location: 
City University London
Country: 
UK
Year: 
2014

Although the ethics of communications made by lawyers in adversarial representation are thoroughly dealt with by professional codes of ethics and the literature on professional ethics the ethics of communications in public discourse are less well served. Public discourse includes both communications directed to the general public or a section of the public and communications directed at pubic decision makers at local, national, or international levels. The communications of interest are those that are made by lawyers as lawyers: not those made in a personal capacity without explicit or implicit reference to professional status. Lawyers may address the general public or public decision makers in pursuit of:
• The personal values of the lawyer. The cause lawyer typifies this stance.
• The values of the group the lawyer represents (e.g. personal injury defendants, criminal defendants, or employers). These views may either be personally endorsed or not.
• The interests of a client or client group. This is the lawyer as lobbyist.
The paper asks how these interventions should be viewed ethically.
We consider this question in the light of theoretical works of: Jurgen Habermas; Sissela Bok; Seligman, Weller, Puett, & Simon (Ritual and its Consequences).
We also consider whether any existing principles of practice governing the solicitors profession are applicable (see: 1, 2 & 6 specifically).

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