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Does a moral compass Steer today’s American lawyer? Richard Zitrin and Carol Langford argue that all too often business expediency overrides ethical demands, with lawyers frequently erring in favor of getting and keeping business rather than in favor of clients, the public, or the integrity of the legal system.

The Moral Compass of the American Lawyer is a brief against the evils of excessive commercialism in law. It speaks to the current debate over whether law is primarily a business or whether it is a profession with standards that prevent lawyers from behaving like highly paid bulldogs. The authors (who both practice law and teach legal ethics in California) seize the “high ground” of the business-versus-profession debate — arguing that the delivery of legal and adjudicative services should not be governed solely by market forces and human acquisitiveness. However, their eloquent call for concern conspicuously lacks an action plan. Instead, Zitrin and Langford have stitched together a patchwork of stories and observations that prompt reflection. As a result, The Moral Compass is an argumentative quilt that makes for a good (at times great) read but falls short as an effective outline for change.

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