Dalhousie Law Journal

Article Title

Law's Ambition and the Reconstruction of Role Morality in Canada


There is a growing disconnect and alienation between lawyers and the legal profession in Canada. One cause, which is the focus ofthe article, is philosophical in nature. There appears to be a disconnect between the role lawyers want to pursue (i.e., a facilitator of justice) and the role that they perceive the profession demands they play (i.e., a hired gun). The article argues that this perception is a mistaken one. Over the last fifteen years, we have been engaged in a process of role morality reconstruction. Under this reconstructed institutional role, an ethic of client-centred zealous advocacy has slowly begun to be replaced with a justice-seeking ethic that seeks to give effect to law's ambition. Part I of the article provides the basic foundations of this reconstruction thesis. In the first section, role morality is defined and defended as a beacon of ethical reflection. The next section attempts to trace the evolution ofour understanding of the public interest. The final section of Part I provides the evidence of this reconstructed role morality by exploring statements from leading members of the profession, recent ethics jurisprudence and by examining equality and harm prevention principles in our codes of conduct. Like any large bureaucratic institution, the profession will inevitably be slow to respond to its new identity and the changing set of norms and values that go with that identity. The required institutional changes are beyond the scope of this article. However, Part II does address how lawyers can on an individual level give effect to this evolving role morality by adopting a pervasive justice-seeking ethic and by engaging in identity lawyering that is consistent with the interests ofjustice.