Even in this country, the promise of freedom and equality under law is sometimes only that – a promise. It is only when fair and just laws are equally applied to all that law is a force for good.
Using our unique craft, lawyers write our laws, interpret them, enforce them, advise clients about them, draft plans to comply with or evade them and defend those who are charged with violating them. Given our superior knowledge of the law and the sole franchise to practice law as a profession, we are in a unique position to help determine whether law will ultimately be a force of good or evil.
As we zealously represent our clients, it is our solemn duty to ensure that they are ever aware of the positives and negatives they may achieve through legal means, not because we have the right to control their actions, but because we may be the last voice they hear before they decide just how they will use, or abuse, our laws.
Ultimately, of course, important decisions are made by our clients, and not by us. But a competent, candid and courageous lawyer may well be that person who finally convinces a client, even our government, to take those actions that best balance the desires of the client with the rights of others. Let us never forget that we are often the only voice of reason our clients hear.
Roy Sobelson is professor of law and associate dean for academic affairs. His area of expertise is professional responsibility and legal ethics.