Making lawyers moral: Ethical codes and moral character

Donald Nicolson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Citations (Scopus)
32632 Downloads (Pure)


This article argues that professional codes of conduct cannot perform the important task of ensuring that lawyers uphold high ethical standards. Instead, moral behaviour by lawyers requires the development of fixed behavioural attributes relevant to legal practice - what may be called a lawyer's professional moral character. At the same time, however, along with other factors, professional codes are important in that they can either contribute to or detract from the successful development of professional moral character. If so, it is argued that in order to have the best chance of assisting the character development of lawyers, codes should neither take the form of highly detailed or extremely vague, aspirational norms, but should instead guide ethical decision-making by requiring them to consider a wide range of contextual factors when resolving ethical dilemmas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)601-626
Number of pages25
JournalLegal Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2005


  • professional code of conduct
  • lawyers
  • moral behaviour
  • legal practice
  • ethical dilemmas

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