Centre for Legal Education

Ferris, G. and Johnson, N., 2017. Should lawyers acknowledge whom they represent in public discourse? Legal Ethics. ISSN 1460-728X

Political rule depends upon public discourse as it requires negotiation and compromise of conflicting interests. Public discourse includes activities that can be described as cause lawyering, lobbying, and rule entrepreneurship. The rule of law supports public discourse through, inter alia, the right to petition. The right to petition requires identification of those engaged in public discourse through petition. This requirement reflects a principle of general application. Solicitors owe an ethical duty to support the rule of law, including the right to petition. Lawyers without a specific duty to uphold the rule of law have ethical duties to maintain the reputation of the legal system and their legal profession. Lawyers, including solicitors, are frequent contributors to public discourse. Lawyers sometimes resist identifying the clients or client groups they represent in public discourse on the ground of the need to protect client confidentiality. This resistance is not ethically well reasoned, and lawyers should recognise a duty to disclose the identity of a client or client group for whom the lawyer is making representations in any public arena, understanding public arena to include both are representations to public office holders (lobbying) and contributions to reform campaigns or consultations (cause lawyering or rule entrepreneurship).