The role of empathy in the lawyer-client relationship, an exploration of how empathy can serve to address the issues of neutral partisanship and paternalism

  • Maria MacLeod

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Empathy's lack of definitional certainty has posed significant challenges in assessing its utility and value in the lawyer-client relationship. The author argues that the two main models of lawyering that seek to challenge the traditional model - the client centred and collaborative models - fail to adequately address the issues of paternalism and neutral partisanship that arise within the relationship due to their adoption of an incomplete definition of empathy. The author concludes that it is imperative for lawyers to employ a conception of empathy that includes both affective and cognitive components, and in terms of cognition, the lawyer must reciprocally employ both self and other-oriented perspective-taking in order to effectively empathically engage with their client. Ultimately, this thesis will conclude that when it adopts such a conception of empathy, and where it embraces a postmodern ethic of alterity, which encourages lawyers to attentively listen to, and appreciate, the narratives of the Other - particularly the subordinated Other, the ethic of care provides a superior basis from which toaddress the issues of paternalism and neutral partisanship.
Date of Award9 Nov 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorDonald Nicolson (Supervisor) & Alan Paterson (Supervisor)

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