The article explores the concept of “witness” by looking at the history and tradition of giving testimony in three contexts, legal history, religion, and literary narrative, with the goal of situating lawyers within these traditions. The author’s interest in the topic was prompted by years of frustration with the circumscribed role of lawyers in the judicial system’s truth-telling enterprise and, more profoundly, by concerns with lawyers’ restrained capacity to shape truth in the larger, social-cultural sense. The question asked, therefore, is whether lawyers, who are positioned to witness (as in “behold”) so much about society, and have the social authority to witness (as in “attest”) to what they have seen, have an obligation, or at least a right, to speak. If so, what are the parameters of this role, what are its roots, and what is the nature of the discursive practice?


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