Bruce A. Green


This article grows out of a presentation on November 9, 2012, as part of the Distinguished Lecture Series of the Akron Law Joseph G. Miller and William C. Becker Center for Professional Responsibility. This article begins with some reflections on the principal meanings of professional independence, as that term is conventionally employed. Part II discusses the bar’s collective independence to regulate its members. Part III discusses individual lawyers’ independence in the context of professional representations, including independence from clients, on one hand, and independence from third parties, on the other. Part IV then suggests that there is a meaning of lawyers’ professional independence that has largely dropped out of lawyers’ discourse but that deserves more attention, namely, lawyers’ independence from the courts. This includes at least three aspects: (1) freedom to criticize judges; (2) freedom to disobey arguably unlawful court orders; and (3) freedom to resolve certain ethical dilemmas for oneself, as a matter of professional conscience. As the bar has become strongly identified and allied with the judiciary, motivated by the interests in securing judicial protection from other government regulation and in securing the bar’s own institutional influence over individual lawyers, it has ignored this understanding and redefined professional independence consistently with a strong judicial role in regulating lawyers.