There are many reasons not to represent President Trump in the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. But the most common reason offered by prominent defense lawyers — “business conflicts” — is not one of them.
The problem facing many of these highly regarded lawyers is palpable: Taking on Trump as a client may be bad for business. He is notorious for stiffing lawyers (as well as others who have done work for him), and large law firms with the most talented lawyers depend on business from corporate clients, who may dislike Trump or fear tainting their brand if “their” law firm were to defend the president.
But what is good for business may not be in the best interests of the legal profession — or the country.
What distinguishes a profession from a trade is a sense that its goal is higher than merely making a product. At their best, leaders of the bar are willing to risk financial penalties to make the justice system work. That means admirable lawyers — and their law firms — should be prepared to provide counsel to a deeply unpopular client and face the repercussions.