Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2019


This article examines the role of vulnerability in transforming individual relationships, particularly the attorney-client relationship. In this essay, Martin argues that broadening our expressions can improve our client relations and decrease the likelihood that when that inevitable mistake occurs, we will be sued for it. Also, based upon virtue ethics, that practicing vulnerability is also virtuous and thus worthwhile in and of itself.

This essay starts by describing the traits people look for in lawyers as well as evidence that clients often feel that their lawyers are less than human. Then examines how legal education contributes to this problem by making it difficult for law students to demonstrate vulnerability to their peers, and then later to their clients, due to the structures and expectations modeled for students in law school.

From there, the author shares empirical research from medical malpractice studies showing that physicians who communicate well and show humility, vulnerability, and an open communication style, get sued less for their mistakes, even if their patients are badly injured. Next, is a brief review of empirical evidence from the attorney malpractice industry as well as anecdotal evidence from attorney disciplinary actions, to show that the same is true of lawyers. Lawyers who build true human relationships with clients, including by showing their own weaknesses and vulnerabilities, are less likely to be sued or brought before a disciplinary board. Finally, Martin describes how virtue ethics supports the idea that vulnerability should be practiced for its own sake. Finally, there are tips on how to practice vulnerability and teach law students to do the same.

Publication Title

Southwestern Law Review





First Page


Last Page



Legal Profession, Professional Ethics, Capacity



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