Legal ethicists often debate whether a lawyer should
pursue a client’s cause to the full extent the law allows or be guided
by other considerations, such as morality or the interests of justice.
This article contends that social psychology has important, yet largely
overlooked, implications for this foundational debate. Social
psychologists have found that situational factors, such as placing a
lawyer in a partisan role, can adversely affect professional objectivity
and hinder a lawyer’s ability to apply conventional ethics theories in
the manner scholars assume to be possible. This article suggests that
legal ethicists can develop more accurate and useful theories by
accounting for the ways in which partisanship distorts objectivity, just
as behavioral economists have drawn on social psychology to develop
more accurate and useful understandings of economics.