Ethics Quote of the Day: Ken, of Popehat

“Listen to me: a law school calculated to make students feel good about themselves is as ridiculous as a Marine boot camp designed to make enlistees feel good about themselves. Law students, God help us, will one day be lawyers. When they are, nobody will care about their self-esteem. The prosecutors seeking to jail their clients will not be seeking to foster a sense of community. The opposing civil lawyers seeking to bankrupt their clients will not be promoting a culture of dignity and respect. Most law practice is about conflict. It’s a bloody, ugly street fight. Self-esteem borne of law-should-be-harmony is useless to clients. The only self-esteem useful to clients is self-esteem earned by hard work, determination, command of the subject matter, and the willingness to stand up to adversity. People who object to law professors being wickedly Socratic, and classmates being cutthroat, are missing the point. If you’re put off by a Socratic professor, Mr. Fluffy Bunny, a run-of-the-mill judge is going to make you soil yourself. If nasty, backstabbing classmates upset you, the first time you get into a nasty letter-writing campaign with an opposing counsel you’re going to have a breakdown. Law school is not a fucking spa day. It’s training to stand between your client and whatever the world throws at him.”

—– Ken, the astute lawyer/sage/Don Rickles of the libertarian social commentary website Popehat, excoriating the University of St. Thomas Law School for, among other things, extolling the values of self-esteem, collaboration, harmony and community among their students.

What Ken is really talking about is zealous representation, that once universally accepted bedrock of the  lawyer’s duty that has gradually fallen into disfavor with many academics and lawyers. Continue reading

Chevron, Environmentalists, Hoaxes, and the Ethics of Dialogue

Chevron, the oil giant, rolled out a new ad campaign this week. It announced that Chevron agrees with critics and environmentally concerned Americans that it has critical responsibilities, such as reinvesting profits into socially responsible projects, seeking renewable energy sources, and taking extra steps to protect the environment. “We hear what people say about oil companies – that they should develop renewables, support communities, create jobs and protect the environment – and the fact is, we agree,” says Rhonda Zygocki, Chevron’s vice president of Policy, Government and Public Affairs, in the company’s press release. “This campaign demonstrates our values as a company and the greater value we provide in meeting the world’s demand for energy.  There is a lot of common ground on energy issues if we take the time to find it.” Continue reading

Handshake Ethics, Professionalism, and Rand Paul

Democrat Jack Conway, attempting to take down his opponent for the U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky, Rand Paul, decided to go low. He employed a number of personal attacks including questions about Paul’s participation in a harmless, if bizarre college prank that had been the subject of a blatantly unfair article in Gentleman’s Quarterly. It was a desperate, mean, and unprofessional performance by Conway. Paul was obviously and understandably furious.

At the end of the debate, Paul rushed by Conway, ignoring his outstretched hand. I sympathize with him. I empathize with him. In the heat of the moment, having just had my opponent smear me on television with tales out of school—literally—I might have even done the same thing, though I hope not. Nevertheless, Paul rejected a vital ritual as well as a cardinal rule of civility in the political arena, where, as in the sporting arena, the handshake after the contest sends a symbolic message of reconciliation, forgiveness, respect, and most of all, professionalism. Continue reading