The mindset of the lawyer

The foundations of the lawyer’s self-conception transcend mere legal duties which could be created by laws alone. Legal ethics and professional rules which lawyers impose on themselves do not (as many would like to think) limit free economic competition, at the expense of the client. Quite on the contrary, moral claims on a profession with the highest degree of responsibility should ideally transcend that which is legally controllable for the client’s protection.

What is understood under “professional ethics” in English speaking countries cannot, in our opinion, encompass everything. For a service provider, much is doubtlessly dependent on a business whose organisation functions well in terms of construction and workflows. There is no need to give special mention to the fact that a consistent adherence to deadlines and appointments are the basic prerequisites for a legal office of high quality and standing.

But we believe that something has to be added to this. There is a counterpart to the freedom of the free profession in its external relations, and this can severely limit its practice in internal relations in terms of the client’s protection. The German concept of “Berufs-Ethos” or “professional ethics” describes something which, we believe, extends far beyond a management of high quality in the sense of regular certifications. This is because it comes into connection with a different order of human cohabitation – namely a moral one: The mindset of the lawyer must, in addition, always correspond to a well-defined sense of legal-morality.

Precisely because absolute trust cannot only be provided by statutory provisions, a good lawyer must not only recognise the relevant norms but also attain a high degree of personal integrity. The lawyer who always bears in mind that only the client gives him a reason to exist (and not just in a financial sense!) should also never forget that he must accept he cannot be everyone’s friend if clashing interests are involved (as is often the case in legal representation). We lawyers tend to take a partial stance because this is what the law expects and demands from us. We have to take a stance against others and will therefore always have to have opponents.



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