San Diego Law Review

Article Title

Three Concepts of Roles

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type



There is something distinctive about the law, legal reasoning, and the role of lawyers. That distinctiveness is captured by the idea that normative reasoning by citizens in communities is necessarily aimed at discovering what rights and obligations everyone ought to have, consistent with the interests of other citizens. It is implausible to believe that ordinary moral reasoning is well-suited to working out a scheme of public entitlements that is suited to regulating the interactions among citizens who disagree about what their entitlements ought to be. The law has authority to the extent it enables people to do better than they otherwise could at the project of living and working together in a relatively peaceful, stable political community. In order to perform this function, however, the law must create exclusionary, second-order reasons for both citizens and lawyers. The lawyer’s professional role may be described as a recourse role, but because the end of the law is coordination, it will be a very unusual case in which lawyers may disregard the obligations of the role and act directly on ordinary moral considerations.