Epistemology for Legal Ethics

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Long title: 
An Epistemology for Legal Ethics: The Need for Intellectually Virtuous Lawyers
Author(s): 
Tucsa, Emanuel R.
Author(s)' contact information: 
Email: emanueltucsa@osgoode.yorku.ca
Conference title: 
International Legal Ethics Conference 7
Conference location: 
Fordham University, New York City
Country: 
USA
Year: 
2016

Ethicists sometimes make a distinction between self-regarding ethical virtues and other-regarding ethical virtues, i.e. ethical dispositions that primarily benefit oneself (e.g. prudence) or primarily benefit others (e.g. generosity) in terms of some ethical value. This distinction has been taken up within epistemology and used to develop theories of knowledge that include intellectual virtues that are self-regarding and intellectual virtues that are other-regarding, i.e. intellectual dispositions that primarily benefit oneself (e.g. perceptiveness and intellectual courage) or primarily benefit others (e.g. honesty and integrity) in terms of intellectual flourishing and the acquisition of knowledge.

I argue that this project of applying these ideas from virtue theory to epistemology can also provide insight into the functions of legal systems and the roles of lawyers. Models of lawyering (traditional and alternative) incorporate both self-regarding and other-regarding virtues. However, these models would support virtue development (ethical and intellectual) in ways that emphasize virtue orientations differently when it comes to the roles and tasks that lawyers perform.

My focus is on the relevance that intellectual virtues and their orientations have for the practice and ethics of lawyering. A benefit of discussing intellectual virtues in relation to legal ethics is that the idea of intellectual virtue enriches our understanding of the lawyer’s knowledge producing role. Additionally, this research provides an ethically robust account of the “good lawyer” in a way that leverages the technical sense of the term “good lawyer”. The arguments in this paper are illustrated through a consideration of document discovery and witness testimony.

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