Dalhousie Law Journal


lawyers, government, ethics, Department of Justice, Canada, civil litigators, values, professional mentorship, virtue


Lawyers working within a living government require a living ethics, an approach to ethics that accounts for their day-to-day professional lives within the Department of Justice Canada. There are different archetypes of Justice lawyers, and thus a living ethics is also an ethics of place, one which is sensitive to the government institutions within and for which lawyers work and the functions they accomplish. The focus of this paper, which employs a virtue ethics methodology, is primarily civil litigators. Distinguishing between values (enduring beliefs that influence action) and ethics (the application of values in practice), the paper proposes "service to the nation" as a value that all Justice lawyers share, and describes how that value grows into an ethics that is specific to Justice civil litigators. Service to the nation comprises in its very fabric a conception ofpublic service which, in turn, requires an investigation of who Justice lawyers' clients are and how the lawyers' public interest mandate informs their professional lives. In the language of virtue ethics, "service to the nation" is the "characteristic function" common to all Justice lawyers. Virtue ethics teaches that the ethical practice ofa lawyer can be facilitated through developing professional mentorship relationships with virtuous people. Both rules and roles provide ethical direction, but it is role models, not rules in professional codes of conduct, that are the focal point of ethical deliberation.