2.2: Lawyers in the News


News stories about the legal profession often contain questions of character.

The news celebrates examples where lawyers have demonstrated outstanding character, but also highlights where their character has been found to be wanting.

This section asks you to look at stories from the press relating to law and consider the questions of character contained within them. The examples given in this section are real life examples that have actually taken place in the legal profession.

The films and activities in this step will provide you with a platform to discuss character and virtues and their place in your professional and personal lives.

Watch this film about the most recent scandals and misconducts reported in law, presented by Philip Drake.

Download the following files for each case mentioned in the video above.

Looking at cases 1-6 only, download the activity and rank them in order of descending seriousness.

Using the activity template, work in small groups to identify the common themes of character, virtues and vices that are displayed in all 10 cases.

Source five more cases and discuss as above.

In small groups, prepare an argument either for or against the notion that ‘a lawyer needs to be virtuous at all times‘.

If completing the course in class, create two groups to complete this activity. If completing the activity outside of class, work with a fellow learner and take opposing positions. Select one of the cases of lawyers in the news from Activity 1. Create a moot where each group takes opposing sides in the following debate:

Select a case from the 10 examples in Activity 1 where a lawyer has behaved virtuously. On the discussion boards, debate which qualities of professional character you think the lawyer has shown.

Do you think that all lawyers should routinely behave in these ways?

Consider how easy it is for lawyers to behave virtuously all of the time, and what challenges or barriers may prevent or restrict this in practice.

Discuss with your fellow learners.

Consider the news reports on cases 1-6 from Activity 1 as a comment by the journalist on the virtues that the lawyers ‘should’ have displayed but which were lacking. Answer the following questions:

1. What impact may each report have on the notion of virtue in the legal profession among members of the general public?

2. Do cases 7-10 provide a counterbalance to the examples of vice in the profession, or are they simply examples of ‘good people’ rather than ‘good lawyers’?

Discuss with your fellow learners.



Robert A. Prentice – This article surveys a significant portion of the new learning in behavioural ethics in support of the claim that by teaching behavioural ethics we have a realistic chance to improve the ethicality of human decision making and actions.

David Barnhizer – This paper argues that in the law profession there is continuous manipulation in pleadings, interviews, investigations, discovery, and negotiations. It is impossible for an effective advocate to avoid manipulating people, but not impossible to make moral choices about the limits of their behaviour, and how far they are personally willing to go.