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A central and ongoing debate among legal ethics scholars addresses the moral positioning of adversarial advocacy. Most participants in this debate focus on the structure of our legal system and the constituent role of the lawyer-advocate. Many are highly critical, arguing that the core structure of adversarial advocacy is the root cause of many instances of lawyer misconduct. In this Article, we argue that these scholars’ focuses are misguided. Through reflection on Aristotle’s treatise, Rhetoric, we defend advocacy in our legal system’s litigation process as ethically positive and as pivotal to fair and effective dispute resolution. We recognize that advocacy can, and sometimes does, involve improper and unethical use of adversarial techniques, but we demonstrate that these are problems of practice and not of structure and should be addressed as such.


Legal Ethics, Legal History, Practice and Procedure, Dispute Resolution

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University of Pennsylvania Law Review

Publication Citation

159 U. Pa. L. Rev. 751 (2011).