Legal Ethics and Reform

Will Lawyers Gain Admittance to Heaven?

There are thousands of lawyer jokes. Many have a punch lines which imply that lawyers will not be admitted to heaven.

These jokes are funny but the logic behind them is deeply flawed. God is perfect and all knowing. Most theologians believe that each man will be judged by God in light of the moral principles that animated and guided that person’s conscience in life.

Theologians have devise “biblically based “ guidelines for right behavior so that men by studying their Bibles and these guidelines might have well formed consciences and know how to behave. But theologians know that some men are “handicapped” because they have never been exposed to these guidelines, or, though exposed to these guidlines, have been mislead by their elders into accepting an alternative, false set of guidelines. Theologians would argue that these “handicapped” men will be held to a lower (or at least a different) standard by God than the rest of mankind.

Lawyers, as pointed out elsewhere in this website, are a group of people who have been taught to accept alternative guidelines of right behavior at an impressionable age by articulate professors in gray flannel suits. Are lawyers to be blamed by God for accepting this alternative view of morality when this alternative structure was impressed on them over a three year period, when they were in their early twenties, by well spoken, well educated teachers? Of course not. Remember, law schools generally do not reach out to the wider university for such courses as “ethics” or “history of legal systems” or “the philosophy of legal systems”. If they did, an alternative, counter veiling moral ethos might compete for the law student’s attention. No, law schools do not want competing concepts of right and wrong to interfere with the process of “formation” that “makes” a lawyer.

The thoughtful reader might argue that because all lawyers have been exposed to correct morality in their grade school, high school, and college years before they became law students, God will hold them to the guidelines learned in these earlier years. Theologians would differ with this argument. A conscience is a flexible thing. Just as a person can in adulthood learn right behavior and cast aside mistaken beliefs, a person can in certain circumstances do the reverse, replace the “right” with the “wrong”. Since God has designed our conscience to favor the “right” and be resistant to the “wrong”, the latter process, replacing right with wrong can usually only be effected over many months, or even years, in a very structured, intense environment (in this case, a law school). In addition, this process of legal education would not be very successful if it challenged right morals with a frontal attack, but legal education does not attempt this. Legal educators attempt to “add on “ certain moral exceptions which they say only lawyers can properly use. For instance, lawyers may spin the facts in a courtroom to convey a favorable impression for their client and place the opposition in a negative light, and government lawyers are allowed to secretly listen to other people’s conversations. These abborations are justified because lawyers are in a quest for “the truth”. The end justifies the means?

When Judge Starr speaks, everyone senses that he truly believes that he has done the right thing in his pursuit of Monica and the President. Will he have a high place in heaven? If God judges Judge Starr by the “lights of” Judge Starr’s conscience the Judge will have a high place in heaven. When Johnny Cockrane speaks, everyone senses that he truly believes that he has done the right thing by making the jury focus of Detective Mark Ferman’s use of the “n....” word ten years ago instead of on O.J.’s use of a butcher knife on this ex-wife’s throat.. Will he have a high place in heaven? If God judges Mr. Cockrane by the “lights of” Mr. Cockrane’s conscience then Mr. Cockrane will have a high place in heaven In like fashion, every lawyer who truly believes in and faithfully follows the moral precepts learned in law school has a good chance at a very high place in heaven.

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