Professor McGinniss Presents at Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics Symposium

Document Type

News Article

Publication Date


Campus Unit

School of Law


On Friday, March 18, 2016, Professor Michael McGinniss presented in Washington, D.C. as part of a panel program for the 2016 Symposium of the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics. The Symposium theme was Remaining Ethical Lawyers in a Changing Profession. His panel (which included scholars from Columbia, Fordham, and Georgetown) focused on the topic Additional Guidance in the Legal Ethics Code: Necessary or Restrictive? Professor McGinniss presented ideas from the article he was invited to write for the Symposium, entitled The Character of Codes: Preserving Spaces for Personal Integrity in Lawyer Regulation, for which publication is expected in June 2016. The article briefly describes the history and general traits of national codes on the regulation of lawyers, culminating with today’s ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. It then considers how and why code language exhibiting the virtue of generality and allowing for the exercise of discretion most effectively preserves spaces for personal integrity in lawyer regulation. It concludes by considering the benefits of creating voluntary, practice-specific ethical standards (such as those developed and published for matrimonial lawyers), rather than government-imposed, specialized codes detailing specific mandates for lawyers in different practice areas. Professor McGinniss advocates that voluntary, practice-specific ethical standards provide a valuable tool for capturing lawyers’ and judges’ collective experiences and expressing the ethos of a practice community, while still creating ample room for individual lawyers to act in accordance with their personal moral vision and deeply held ethical principles.