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Government Lawyers, Loyalty, Conscience, Withdrawal, Legal Ethics, Public Service


There is a growing recognition that the core concepts and specific rules of legal ethics can have unusual and even unique implications for government lawyers. In this short essay, I examine how loyalty, conscience, and withdrawal apply to government lawyers. I argue that while government lawyers should be slower than lawyers in private practice to exercise their professional discretions to withdraw from a matter, they must be particularly ready to withdraw when unavoidably required – despite any selfless dedication to the ideal of a non-partisan public service.