Lawyers as Quasi-Public Actors


  • W. Bradley Wendel


American lawyers are often conceived of as agents of the client (mere hired guns or mouthpieces for their client) who can select specific categories of clients at their discretion. However, the law governing lawyers as a whole is not purely private in nature as it does place some public duties on lawyers. An example of this is the rule in the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct that imposes a duty on lawyers to provide pro bono legal services to those who need it. Although this duty is not enforceable through the disciplinary process, this responsibility will nevertheless continue to fall on individual lawyers due to the political realities in the United States. The author provides a justification for this unenforceable requirement by conceptualizing lawyers as quasi-public officials, thereby imbuing the lawyer’s role with responsibilities to both the client and to the legal system. Rather than being soley private actors, lawyers have a duty to act in the interests of justice, thereby ensuring “access to justice.”