John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum flags this ongoing discussion in the academy between Cornell's Brad Wendel, author of Lawyers and Fidelity to Law, and a host of critics. From a defense in which he says he feels like a rock star for the luminaries who have flocked to comment on his book:
Within a moderately decent society, the ethics of lawyers acting as lawyers has to be oriented toward the law, not morality or justice. If lawyers wish to be activists or dissidents, they can be, but it is essential that they not confuse these very different social roles. I am not blind to the injustices that remain in the United States, but the legal response to this injustice should not be individual acts of sabotage or nullification. Lawyers can, and should advocate for change, but as always it should be zealous advocacy . . . within the bounds of the law. One of the principal aims of the book was to restore the last part of the lawyer’s mantra just quoted to its proper place in legal ethics. Without the constitutive obligation of fidelity to law, lawyers are just sophists, offering nothing beyond the kind of half-baked moral advice that any decent client could supply for herself. If there is something distinctive about our profession, it has to be a commitment to the value of legality and a corresponding obligation to respect the law.