How Do Roles Generate Reasons? A Method of Legal Ethics


Stephen Galoob

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Philosophical discussions of legal ethics should be oriented around the generative problem, which asks two fundamental questions. First, how does the lawyer’s role generate reasons? Second, what kinds of reasons can this role generate?

Every extant theory of legal ethics is based on a solution to the generative problem. On the generative method, theories of legal ethics are evaluated based on the plausibility of these solutions. I apply this method to three prominent theories of legal ethics, finding that none is based on a fully satisfactory solution to the generative problem.

This method has important implication for the study of legal ethics. Philosophically, it moves theoretical debates about legal ethics closer to other debates about the sources of normativity, like those concerning promises. Further, this method identifies a real-world dimension to these theoretical debates. Focusing on the generative problem allows for the empirical verification of hypotheses about legal ethics that have, to date, largely been conjectured.