Law Student Perspectives: Apologia for the Legal Profession

Alexandre Leturgez-Coianiz phot

By Alexandre Leturgez-Coianiz, LL.M. Candidate at Fordham School of Law

Law is the cornerstone of each society and has been from the beginning of our evolution. Living together in harmony as much as it is humanly possible requires organization and rules. As proof of this requirement, our ancestors understood the importance of written rules to provide security for society. One of the first codifications that was found is the Code of Hammurabi, a well-preserved Babylonian law code of ancient Mesopotamia, dating back to around 1754 BC. I admired this huge engraved stone at the Louvre in Paris. This artifact is proof that law transcends the society in every step of its construction. Law is not just a matter of study but a partnership with society, which can be a blessing and a gift to be used for the benefit of all.

Lawyers, judges, legal assistants, in-house counsel, and others know that the practical aspect of the law is often a hard and sometimes solitary journey. The legal profession needs to be independent and impartial to be an efficient body. The checks and balances put in place by the Founding Fathers include the legal profession in its broadest definition. These builders of the society that we inherited used the law to build, advocate, and defend the idea of society with fairness. We are heirs of this legal legacy and, therefore, we continue to preserve, improve, adapt, and often change to adjust to modern times and the evolution of our people.  We should be proud of our legacy, our knowledge, and to be part of this legal framework.

When it comes to periods of conflicts and doubts, our legal profession should always be a safe harbor.  We fight for justice. I remember studying about a French judge during World War II who refused to serve Mr. Petain under the Vichy government. Paul Didier refused to give allegiance to Mr. Petain, “chief of the French state,” which was a prerequisite to serving as a judge. Didier was barred from becoming a judge because of his conviction that the Vichy government under the Nazi supervision was harmful to France and he was publicly dismissed from his duties. We should learn from this member of the legal profession who stood for justice and against destruction.

Moreover, we should be proud of our profession that carries values of honor, fraternity, and dignity. The French code of professional ethics states that a lawyer must exercise his functions with consciousness, independence, integrity, and humaneness. Legal professions are regulated by codes of conduct and corporate bodies, emphasizing the significance of our values. Everyone is responsible for respecting those values and lawyers have a duty to do so under article 8.3 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. 

I am proud to be a part of this profession and feel very privileged to have received this knowledge. No matter what happens in our society, the independence of the legal profession will be the strongest tool to help society. As long as separation of powers exists, and the legal profession strives for justice, the law will continue to evolve and grow along with our ever-changing times.