jenbal45
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I was wondering what people thought about lawyers, when they have to act for a client even if they know their client was wrong. You could take the more extreme case of representing a murderer (you are pretty sure they committed the crime because of their criminal history), or a much more moderate case of representing a firm in a financial dispute (when you know they are in the wrong). So, what do people think about lawyers. Is anyone who does the above an immoral person?
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Nuttyy
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It works because it doesn't assume anything. The principle of innocent until *proven* guilty is fundamental to law, as it protects everyone's right to proper justice. Because once you convict people on assumptions and not proper evidence, you go into the rabbit hole of corruption and people being prosecuted for illegitimate reasons.

The human aspect of it is provided by the Jury who form the judgement based on all the evidence provided.
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jenbal45
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(Original post by Nuttyy)
It works because it doesn't assume anything. The principle of innocent until *proven* guilty is fundamental to law, as it protects everyone's right to proper justice. Because once you convict people on assumptions and not proper evidence, you go into the rabbit hole of corruption and people being prosecuted for illegitimate reasons.

The human aspect of it is provided by the Jury who form the judgement based on all the evidence provided.
That's a good answer, however, I refer to my latter example. Say you are a lawyer who works full time for a company, and you know they are in the wrong because you have heard things from other employees or because the firm has told you itself, what about this situation? Would a lawyer who defends the company here be immoral?

What I think you are saying in the second part is that its not a lawyer's job to act human (in the moral sense because the jury will do it for them).
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Nuttyy
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(Original post by jenbal45)
That's a good answer, however, I refer to my latter example. Say you are a lawyer who works full time for a company, and you know they are in the wrong because you have heard things from other employees or because the firm has told you itself, what about this situation? Would a lawyer who defends the company here be immoral?

What I think you are saying in the second part is that its not a lawyer's job to act human (in the moral sense because the jury will do it for them).

As I just said, those are speculations of other employees.

If a defendant admits to their lawyer that they're guilty (I'd assume that's rare lool) then it's a matter for the lawyer to judge on whether he/she should fight the case. The lawyer is still bound by the law to not disclose any information about any case, again, to protect the defendant.

And yes, the last part is correct imo. The lawyers job is to present all the legal points to protect their client. It isn't their job to carry out justice, only to provide material upon which justice will be delivered.
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SomeoneYouKnow
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(Original post by jenbal45)
I was wondering what people thought about lawyers, when they have to act for a client even if they know their client was wrong. You could take the more extreme case of representing a murderer (you are pretty sure they committed the crime because of their criminal history), or a much more moderate case of representing a firm in a financial dispute (when you know they are in the wrong). So, what do people think about lawyers. Is anyone who does the above an immoral person?
1. Philosophical issue: It depends on how you define immoral and moral, and moral acts and immoral acts.

2. Let us assume that in all the cases you mentioned that the lawyer wasn't actually there to witness the crime. In any of these cases, if the lawyer were to conclude that his/her client is guilty based on past criminal history or on his/her feelings, I would say that the lawyer is prejudice and biased. Sure, the client may have committed the crime 3 years ago, but how can you say that that is sufficient evidence for making such a claim. How do you know he isn't reformed and was just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Your client may be a jackass, but that doesn't mean he is going to steal money from a company etc etc. My point is that a lawyer is not omniscient; he or she will never know that his or her client is guilty. It is immoral (intuitive sense of the term) to be prejudice and biased, so the alternative, defending the client, seems moral (intuitive sense) as you are not prejudging.

3. Let's say that there is video evidence of Person A killing person B. Person A hires a lawyer to defend him in court. Obviously, the lawyer would have seen the video evidence. Hence, if he decides to defend Person A, is he immoral (intuitive sense)? The Magna Carta affords everyone the right to justice and fair trial, so the lawyer is only observing Person A's right to justice and fair trial if he defended his client. Would you not say that refusing Person A a defense is more immoral as you are frustrating his rights? Plus, a defense doesn't necessay lead to acquittal: a defense only offers an alternative interpretation of the situation. One must believe that the justice system will pick the right interpretation and see which is closer to the truth.

With these three points in mind, I, personally, would not consider the lawyer to be immoral.
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jenbal45
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(Original post by Nuttyy)
As I just said, those are speculations of other employees.

If a defendant admits to their lawyer that they're guilty (I'd assume that's rare lool) then it's a matter for the lawyer to judge on whether he/she should fight the case. The lawyer is still bound by the law to not disclose any information about any case, again, to protect the defendant.

And yes, the last part is correct imo. The lawyers job is to present all the legal points to protect their client. It isn't their job to carry out justice, only to provide material upon which justice will be delivered.
Interesting to hear your opinion. By the way - the other employee knows because they were involved (so they're not speculating).
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Nuttyy
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(Original post by jenbal45)
Interesting to hear your opinion. By the way - the other employee knows because they were involved (so they're not speculating).
Then they broke privacy laws by disclosing to others lol. As I said before, it isnt the lawyers job yo deliver justice.
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jenbal45
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(Original post by SomeoneYouKnow)
1. Philosophical issue: It depends on how you define immoral and moral, and moral acts and immoral acts.

2. Let us assume that in all the cases you mentioned that the lawyer wasn't actually there to witness the crime. In any of these cases, if the lawyer were to conclude that his/her client is guilty based on past criminal history or on his/her feelings, I would say that the lawyer is prejudice and biased. Sure, the client may have committed the crime 3 years ago, but how can you say that that is sufficient evidence for making such a claim. How do you know he isn't reformed and was just in the wrong place at the wrong time? Your client may be a jackass, but that doesn't mean he is going to steal money from a company etc etc. My point is that a lawyer is not omniscient; he or she will never know that his or her client is guilty. It is immoral (intuitive sense of the term) to be prejudice and biased, so the alternative, defending the client, seems moral (intuitive sense) as you are not prejudging.

3. Let's say that there is video evidence of Person A killing person B. Person A hires a lawyer to defend him in court. Obviously, the lawyer would have seen the video evidence, and, there, he or she "KNOWS FOR CERTAIN" that he he is guilty. Hence, if he decides to defend Person A, is he immoral (intuitive sense)? The Magna Carta affords everyone the right to justice and fair trial, so the lawyer is only observing Person A's right to justice and fair trial if he defended his client. Would you not say that refusing Person A a defense is more immoral as you are frustrating his rights. Plus, a defense doesn't necessay lead to acquittal: a defense only offers an alternative interpretation of the situation. One must believe that the justice system will pick the right interpretation and see which is closer to the truth.

With these three points in mind, I, personally, would not consider the lawyer to be immoral.
Very good, thank you. However, do see below.

2. It's important to consider the human side i.e. your hunch (even if there isn't evidence and that makes you prejudiced) as well as the legal sense ("I haven't seen evidence so it's not against my morals to represent them" . Surely people should act human, even when at work. If they feel the client is a murderer, even if they don't have evidence, they should not represent. You used "prejudice" in the negative sense, but if the client was later found guilty, that original prejudice would have been acceptable to act on.

3. Not representing does not deny a person the right to justice and a fair trial. They will still be judged fairly by a jury and they can represent themselves or find a different lawyer who is willing.
In cases where there is not this clear evidence, defending may lead to acquital (I know you may say, "but that's fine because you don't know for certain whether they are guilty".
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jenbal45
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(Original post by Nuttyy)
Then they broke privacy laws by disclosing to others lol. As I said before, it isnt the lawyers job yo deliver justice.
Not necessarily. You can't discuss with others in your company lol? Maybe what firms do is they don't allow their legal to talk to the other.
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londonmyst
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I grew up around lots of lawyers and have worked in a variety of legal firms.
British law operates of two main principles: "innocent until proven guilty" and "to no one will we deny justice".

Lawyers must comply with strict conduct rules, are forbidden from intentionally deceiving the courts and can't represent clients who have privately admitted illegal conduct to them on a 'not guilty' plea in relation to the conduct that was admitted.
There are harsh sanctions for breaching conduct rules which also apply to lawyers social media history and financial dealings- as well as to their professional actions.

There are lots of different types of lawyers, with different motivations and agendas.
There are plenty of 'sharks' smugly prowling around the legal seas who are immoral, greedy and highly unpleasant to work with.
Also plenty of lawyer 'dupes' who automatically swallow all the lies that they are told by clients regardless of the pile of evidence to the contrary, choosing to put their trust in clients with a long history of dishonesty and involvement in serious criminality.
There are also many genuinely committed activist lawyers who often provide free legal advice, volunteer for charity or act 'pro bono' in time consuming cases to support individuals/groups and causes that they believe in.
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Johnny ~
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OP, you do realise that only a small % of solicitors and barristers are actually defending people accused of a criminal offence at any one time? This is not the bread and butter of the profession.
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Joleee
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i love this topic. i used to think i couldn't work in criminal defence because i'd feel guilty or something, but as it turns out i think i'd be good at it. it's my job right now to advise people who've done criminal acts and things i generally find morally reprehensible, and i do it without batting an eyelash. in my head tho i can easily separate the person from the 'thing'; so instead of thinking of them as a bad person, they are a person who did a bad thing and now it's that 'thing' that needs fixing. that doesn't mean the person themselves doesn't have rights and doesn't have a right to know them.

it's the role of a criminal defence lawyer to keep the state in check, so the state can't go ape **** punishing people beyond (what we deem) reasonable or reasonable compensation for harm. it's not immoral to defend a guilty client; it's immoral to let guilty people who know nothing about the law be unrepresented and floundering in court.
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SomeoneYouKnow
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(Original post by jenbal45)
Very good, thank you. However, do see below.

2. It's important to consider the human side i.e. your hunch (even if there isn't evidence and that makes you prejudiced) as well as the legal sense ("I haven't seen evidence so it's not against my morals to represent them" . Surely people should act human, even when at work. If they feel the client is a murderer, even if they don't have evidence, they should not represent. You used "prejudice" in the negative sense, but if the client was later found guilty, that original prejudice would have been acceptable to act on.

3. Not representing does not deny a person the right to justice and a fair trial. They will still be judged fairly by a jury and they can represent themselves or find a different lawyer who is willing.
In cases where there is not this clear evidence, defending may lead to acquital (I know you may say, "but that's fine because you don't know for certain whether they are guilty".
I do agree that the word prejudice has a negative connotation, so let us switch it for the more neutral term of intuition. At this point, there really isn't anything to discuss because it is all going to be a matter of opinion and what you value more, rather than the function of lawyers and the legal system. For example, I personally find that intuition is never something that should be acted on EVEN IF it turns out to be true later on. However, from what you said, you find it acceptable as long as the ends justifies the means. There is no wrong or right regarding whether you should act on intuition, so there is very little to discuss on that topic. However, I can just tell you my reason for preferring to never act on intuition. My reason is because there was a study at NYU on intuition in philosophy, and the results show that intuition isn't very accurate or sound. This leads me to believe that intuition may be right now and then, but at the cost of being wrong 10 times more. I prefer the paradigm to individual instances. Ultimately, that is why I PERSONALLY don't want my lawyer or any lawyer to have a 'human side'.


Regarding your second point, my main point is that a lawyer who defends someone who he knows is guilty is not immoral (intuitive sense) because he is only observing his rights. The points that you decided to pick on doesn't really matter that much to my point. You should be explaining why a lawyer who acts in accordance to the Magna Carta is immoral (intuitive sense). Once again, this is a futile discussion as well. It comes down to what you value more. Do you value the law and Magna Carta or acting on your intuition and contempt for those you deemed to be guilty? It is difficult to discern which has greater intrinsic value, and it is all a matter of opinion. Someone who values the latter would obviously say the lawyer acted immorally as he acted he placed something of less value above the one with greater value; the proponent of the former would say the contrary.


Nevertheless, I will address what you said anyways. You said that the client could just find other representation or even self-represent, so he still has the right to justice and fair trial. 1) Just because there are other options, it does not change the fact that the lawyer is observing the client's rights. If we take your argument and applied it to other moral situations, we can see its flaws. For example, a man refuses to help another man because there are other people who can help him. A restaurant owner refuses to allow people of a certain race into his establishment because there are other restaurants. A man donates money to charity, and he is no longer moral because there are other people who can donate. The presence of other options does not change moral status. 2) The client doesn't have to be completely out of options for legal representation due to the lawyers refusal for the lawyer to be considered immoral. By refusing, the lawyer inadvertently allowed his own personal issues/preferences/desires or whatever to attempt to thwart the rights of another. It is the attempt that matters. For example, I see a dying man on the street, and I refuse to help him. He may not be dead as a result of my refusal, but I will be considered immoral by my peers nonetheless. I attempt to kill a man, but he doesn't die because the ambulance arrived on time. My attempt was unsuccessful, but I am still immoral. My examples included both positive action and passivity.


You say that cases with little material evidence can lead to acquittal. 1) I know you don't like this, but it is the job of the jury and judge to decide, unfortunately. 2) I was talking about cases where the evidence was fully clear, like a video of the person transgressing, so this point doesn't really apply to what I was saying. In cases where the evidence is clear, surely the jury and judge would see it and convict the client. However, if you want to switch it to cases where there is less evidence, then, once again, how does the lawyer know his client is guilty? If by intuition, then we once again arrive at the matter of opinion. If as you suggested, the client admitted to it, then the client still entitled to legal representation, and the lawyer is only observing his rights. Here, we reach the question of value again.
EDIT: Someone above said you can't represent a client who admitted their guilt when they pleaded innocent in court, so it is virtually impossible for the lawyer to know if they are actually guilty or not.


Food for thought: Depending on whether intention is part of your moral theory, intention probably has something to do with the morality of lawyers. I have previously argued based on the assumption that lawyers are trying to preserve the rights of the client by defending them. However, that is not always the case. The lawyer may not have cared one bit about his client's rights but just wanted the money. Therefore, I believe a good start to answering the question of whether lawyers are moral is to consider WHY they choose to do what they do, rather than just looking at the general situation of lawyers defending clients. For example, if a product at the store accidentally fell into my bag, and I unknowingly walked out, then I probably wouldn't be considered immoral even though stealing is often categorised as immoral. Unfortunately, this would be very difficult as it requires an examination of every single lawyer.
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SomeoneYouKnow
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I write paragraphs and paragraphs defending my view online to strangers but take a decade to write 1 sentence for a uni essay. RIP.
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jenbal45
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(Original post by Johnny ~)
OP, you do realise that only a small % of solicitors and barristers are actually defending people accused of a criminal offence at any one time? This is not the bread and butter of the profession.
I know that - I know law obviously deals with more than crime. The second example in my OP shows that - the case of a financial dispute. Lawyers could behave immorally in any kind of case.
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jenbal45
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(Original post by Joleee)
i love this topic. i used to think i couldn't work in criminal defence because i'd feel guilty or something, but as it turns out i think i'd be good at it. it's my job right now to advise people who've done criminal acts and things i generally find morally reprehensible, and i do it without batting an eyelash. in my head tho i can easily separate the person from the 'thing'; so instead of thinking of them as a bad person, they are a person who did a bad thing and now it's that 'thing' that needs fixing. that doesn't mean the person themselves doesn't have rights and doesn't have a right to know them.

it's the role of a criminal defence lawyer to keep the state in check, so the state can't go ape **** punishing people beyond (what we deem) reasonable or reasonable compensation for harm. it's not immoral to defend a guilty client; it's immoral to let guilty people who know nothing about the law be unrepresented and floundering in court.
I don't understand how you can separate the two. What in your mindset changed to allow you to change?

Just like one can underrepresent, don't you worry that if you're a good enough lawyer you can overrepresent and get someone a shorter punishment than they "deserve".


I have in mind a certain celebrity who about a year back hired a lawyer who found a loophole to get him off speeding charges, which would not have happened if he was a normal person with a less good lawyer.
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jenbal45
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(Original post by SomeoneYouKnow)
I do agree that the word prejudice has a negative connotation, so let us switch it for the more neutral term of intuition. At this point, there really isn't anything to discuss because it is all going to be a matter of opinion and what you value more, rather than the function of lawyers and the legal system. For example, I personally find that intuition is never something that should be acted on EVEN IF it turns out to be true later on. However, from what you said, you find it acceptable as long as the ends justifies the means. There is no wrong or right regarding whether you should act on intuition, so there is very little to discuss on that topic. However, I can just tell you my reason for preferring to never act on intuition. My reason is because there was a study at NYU on intuition in philosophy, and the results show that intuition isn't very accurate or sound. This leads me to believe that intuition may be right now and then, but at the cost of being wrong 10 times more. I prefer the paradigm to individual instances. Ultimately, that is why I PERSONALLY don't want my lawyer or any lawyer to have a 'human side'.


Regarding your second point, my main point is that a lawyer who defends someone who he knows is guilty is not immoral (intuitive sense) because he is only observing his rights. The points that you decided to pick on doesn't really matter that much to my point. You should be explaining why a lawyer who acts in accordance to the Magna Carta is immoral (intuitive sense). Once again, this is a futile discussion as well. It comes down to what you value more. Do you value the law and Magna Carta or acting on your intuition and contempt for those you deemed to be guilty? It is difficult to discern which has greater intrinsic value, and it is all a matter of opinion. Someone who values the latter would obviously say the lawyer acted immorally as he acted he placed something of less value above the one with greater value; the proponent of the former would say the contrary.


Nevertheless, I will address what you said anyways. You said that the client could just find other representation or even self-represent, so he still has the right to justice and fair trial. 1) Just because there are other options, it does not change the fact that the lawyer is observing the client's rights. If we take your argument and applied it to other moral situations, we can see its flaws. For example, a man refuses to help another man because there are other people who can help him. A restaurant owner refuses to allow people of a certain race into his establishment because there are other restaurants. A man donates money to charity, and he is no longer moral because there are other people who can donate. The presence of other options does not change moral status. 2) The client doesn't have to be completely out of options for legal representation due to the lawyers refusal for the lawyer to be considered immoral. By refusing, the lawyer inadvertently allowed his own personal issues/preferences/desires or whatever to attempt to thwart the rights of another. It is the attempt that matters. For example, I see a dying man on the street, and I refuse to help him. He may not be dead as a result of my refusal, but I will be considered immoral by my peers nonetheless. I attempt to kill a man, but he doesn't die because the ambulance arrived on time. My attempt was unsuccessful, but I am still immoral. My examples included both positive action and passivity.


You say that cases with little material evidence can lead to acquittal. 1) I know you don't like this, but it is the job of the jury and judge to decide, unfortunately. 2) I was talking about cases where the evidence was fully clear, like a video of the person transgressing, so this point doesn't really apply to what I was saying. In cases where the evidence is clear, surely the jury and judge would see it and convict the client. However, if you want to switch it to cases where there is less evidence, then, once again, how does the lawyer know his client is guilty? If by intuition, then we once again arrive at the matter of opinion. If as you suggested, the client admitted to it, then the client still entitled to legal representation, and the lawyer is only observing his rights. Here, we reach the question of value again.
EDIT: Someone above said you can't represent a client who admitted their guilt when they pleaded innocent in court, so it is virtually impossible for the lawyer to know if they are actually guilty or not.


Food for thought: Depending on whether intention is part of your moral theory, intention probably has something to do with the morality of lawyers. I have previously argued based on the assumption that lawyers are trying to preserve the rights of the client by defending them. However, that is not always the case. The lawyer may not have cared one bit about his client's rights but just wanted the money. Therefore, I believe a good start to answering the question of whether lawyers are moral is to consider WHY they choose to do what they do, rather than just looking at the general situation of lawyers defending clients. For example, if a product at the store accidentally fell into my bag, and I unknowingly walked out, then I probably wouldn't be considered immoral even though stealing is often categorised as immoral. Unfortunately, this would be very difficult as it requires an examination of every single lawyer.
I get what you're saying. I do think the examples you gave i.e. the restaurant owner, are not correlated to what I was saying. This is because I was talking about someone who there is a chance that they did something criminal, not being represented, whereas you are talking about someone innocent being randomly discriminated against. I see that we have entered the realms of personal morals and therefore any further discussion can't be argued objectively.
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jenbal45
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(Original post by SomeoneYouKnow)
I write paragraphs and paragraphs defending my view online to strangers but take a decade to write 1 sentence for a uni essay. RIP.
lol. I wasn't sure whether you were a philosophy or law student.
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jenbal45
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Thank you for this. I do however think with a spectrum of quality lawyers, if someone has an above average lawyer, they are being "overrepresented" and can get out of punishments the law "intended" for them.
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SomeoneYouKnow
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(Original post by jenbal45)
lol. I wasn't sure whether you were a philosophy or law student.
English Lit, Philosophy, and Law. lol
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