58 B.U. L. Rev. 337 (1978)
From Ethics to Politics: Confronting Scarcity and Fairness in Public Interest Practice

handle is hein.journals/bulr58 and id is 347 raw text is: FROM ETHICS TO POLITICS: CONFRONTING
During the past five years, the practice of public interest law has be-
come a fact of the American legal system. Its emergence reflects and
responds to longstanding tensions between a lawyer's obligation to clients
and to the public generally.' As more groups and interests seek represen-
tation within the legal system, lawyers find themselves at the center of
conflicts that mirror deep-seated differences within American society.2
Public interest practice thus poses dilemmas that are embedded in the
profession's general efforts to make legal services more widely available to a
heterogeneous and often divided population.3 In the next decade the
entire bar, not just one segment of it, will have to confront the issues of
* Professor of Law, Harvard Law School; A.B., Yale University, 1957; J.D., Harvard Law
School, 1960. Professor Bellow was formerly Deputy Director of California Rural Legal
Assistance and the Public Defender's Office of the District of Columbia. A shorter version
of this article appeared in the American Bar Association publication, Professional Responsi-
bility: A Guide for Attorneys (1978).
** Lecturer and Research Associate, Harvard Law School; A.B., University of Michigan,
1967; J.D., Harvard Law School, 1970. Ms. Kettleson was a staff attorney at the Community
Legal Assistance Office, Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Law Reform
I For much of the bar these tensions are resolved, at least in theory, by the proposition
that lawyers serve the public interest through the zealous representation of individual clients.
See Krash, Professional Responsibility to Clients and the Public Interest: Is There a Conflict?,
55 Chi. B. Rec. 31 (1975) (Special Centennial Ed.); Professional Responsibility: Report of the
Joint Conference, 44 A.B.A.J. 1159, 1160 (1958). 'The Code of Professional Responsibility
similarly provides that the duty of a lawyer to his client and his duty to the legal system are
the same: to represent his client zealously within the bounds of the law. American Bar
Ass'n, Code of Professional Responsibility, Ethical Consideration (EC) 7-19 (1975) [hereinaf-
ter cited as Code]. Even proponents of this view recognize, however, that it rests on the
assumption that all who have legal problems have ready access to a lawyer of integrity and
competence. Id., EC 1-1. It also depends upon an approximate identity between the
outcomes of legal disputes and prevailing notions of fairness. The last decade has seen
increasing challenges to both of these claims.
I For example, public interest lawyers have been involved in litigation striking down state
prohibitions on advertising the price of prescription drugs, see Virginia State Bd. of Phar-
macy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc., 425 U.S. 748 (1976), declaring an entire
state prison system unconstitutional because it inflicted cruel and unusual punishment on
inmates, see Pugh v. Locke, 406 F. Supp. 318 (N.D. Ala. 1976), and furthering the revolution
in race relations that began two decades ago with Brown v. Board of Educ., 347 U.S. 483
I It is clear that the expansion of legal services is on the agenda of the bar and of various
commentators. See, e.g., Ehrlich, A Progress Report from the Legal Services Corporation, 62
A.B.A.J. 1139 (1976). Mr. Ehrlich is the President of the Legal Services Corporation. A
recent issue of Trial, the publication of the Association of Trial I.awyers of America, devoted
four of its lead articles to issues involved in the expansion of legal services. See 12 Trial, No.
6 (June, 1976).

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