The traditional view that the function of a code of legal ethics is to define the duties of lawyers and the rights of clients is based on the perception of the lawyer-client relationship as one of simple agency in which the lawyer has the utmost duty of loyalty to the client. The author suggests, however, that this perception is a fallacy that, by overlooking the fact that clients also have duties and lawyers also have rights, can result in antilegal rules of ethics. This result can be escaped, the author proposes, by integrating rules of ethics and rules of positive law, and by recognizing that both lawyers and clients have correlative and corresponding rights and duties. The author concludes first that the function of a code of legal ethics necessarily is to define the rights and duties of both lawyers and clients, and second that the legal profession should fashion such a code before the courts intervene and invalidate antilegal rules of ethics, relying on the duties of clients, just as they have relied on the rights of clients to invalidate anticompetitive rules of ethics.
L. Ray Patterson,
The Function of a Code of Legal Ethics,
35 U. Miami L. Rev.
Available at: http://repository.law.miami.edu/umlr/vol35/iss4/5