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Should a lawyer ever refuse to act in an unpleasant case?    

Recent examples have brought an old legal and philosophical question back to the fore

Illustration by Ian Morris

That everyone is entitled to legal advice is a proposition easy to commend in abstract terms. It will get a nod or even a cheer, and provides the defence that lawyers often invoke when faced with public disdain for their clients or areas of practice. 

But if you go from the general to the particular, the notion becomes more problematic. Some senior English barristers have recently been criticised for their readiness to work for rights-denying foreign governments. Earlier this century, certain American lawyers provided legal cover for the federal government to inflict torture. More recently, other American lawyers…

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