Part I of this Article argues that the lack of moral aspiration in legal ethics rules helps contribute to unhappy and unhealthy law students and lawyers, undermining the legal profession. Part II reviews the existing rules and standards that guide the ethical behavior of lawyers in the United States, arguing that all too often the binding rules focus on providing guide posts, signaling where behavior is unacceptable and disciplinary action is possible, instead of providing moral aspiration and options or next steps to describe what a lawyer should do to deal with an ethical dilemma.
Part III of this Article argues that human rights principles— the concepts of morality underlying human rights law—provide ambitious moral aspiration that lawyers can look to for guidance in navigating ethical dilemmas. Part III explains both what human rights principles are and how human rights principles can be a good source of moral aspiration for attorneys and law students.
Part IV argues why human rights principles are an appropriate source of moral aspiration for lawyering. Part V of this Article discusses the idea of drafting and adopting a human rights code of conduct and provides sample human rights codes of conduct, as well as suggestions for leading efforts to adopt a human rights code of conduct at a law office or law clinic.