Law as Engineering

Law as Engineering

Thinking About What Lawyers Do

David Howarth

Law as Engineering proposes a radically new way of thinking about law, as a profession and discipline concerned with design rather than with litigation, and having much in common with engineering in the way it produces devices useful for its clients. It uses that comparison to propose ways of improving legal design, to advocate a transformation of legal ethics so that the profession learns from its role in the crash of 2008, and to reform legal education and research.

Chapter 4: Implications (1) – Professional ethics

David Howarth

Subjects: economics and finance, law and economics, law - academic, law and economics, law and society, legal theory


We now turn to the question of what difference widespread acceptance of the law-as-engineering perspective would make. We look at the implications in three areas: lawyers’ professional ethics, legal education, and legal research. In this chapter we consider the first item on that list We start with a problem of legal ethics that currently has no satisfactory answer, namely the responsibility of lawyers for the effects of devices they design on third parties. We then suggest that engineers have been thinking about ethical questions with many parallels with that issue, and that the way engineers have reasoned about their ethical issues provides a way forward for lawyers. We conclude with asking how legal ethics might work if it started with the concerns of lawyers whose main work is comparable to that of engineers.

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