U.S. Legal Ethics: The Coming of Age of Global and Comparative Perspectives

Laurel Terry


This Article reviews the influence of comparative law during the past 100 years on the field of U.S. legal ethics. It begins by defining the field of legal ethics and then divides the last 100 years into three distinct comparative legal ethics eras. The first era consists of the time period between 1904 and 1973, during which there was both domestic and comparative legal ethics scholarship, although a relatively small amount compared to later years. The second time period, which dates from 1974, when legal ethics became a required course, to 1997, represents the coming of age of domestic legal ethics scholarship. This time period also included a significant amount of legal ethics scholarship employing a comparative or global perspective. The Article continues by analyzing the time period from 1998 to the present and offers the thesis that in 1998, there was a fundamental transformation or sea change that occurred with respect to the use of global and comparative perspectives to discuss U.S. legal ethics issues. The Article cites several post-1998 examples to demonstrate the coming of age of these perspectives. The final section of the Article identifies various factors that contributed to, and have helped sustain, these heightened comparative and global perspectives.