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In 1850 Abraham Lincoln offered the following advice to new law students:
There is a vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest.... [T]he impression is common, almost universal. Let no young [person] choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief—resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other occupation, rather than one in the choosing of which you do, in advance, consent to be a knave.
Many law professors would claim that such moral instruction is either unnecessary or inappropriate in a graduate program for adult students. Yet, most law school graduates today seem to be entering the profession with only the vaguest sense of their ethical obligations to the public. The duty of lawyers to contribute to the social good has been eclipsed by self-interest and the desire for financial security.
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