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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde po...

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

I enjoy the satisfaction of checking a book off my To Be Read list.  Last week, I crossed off this 75 page novella by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The narrator is a lawyer by the name of Mr. Utterson who finds out more and more about a criminal in the city by the name of Mr. Hyde.  The other characters in the book are:

  • Dr. Jekyll, a prominent and respected man;
  • Dr. Lanyon, another prominent physician who is a friend of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Utterson.

It was delightfully short.   If you started reading this book early in the morning, you would probably be finished by brunch.  Definitely a plus.  Mimosas for everyone.

English: Artwork by Charles Raymond Macauley f...

Dr. Lanyon is pretty freaked out here.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lawyers in Literature.  Long before John Grisham made a bunch of money from his legal thrillers, lawyers were in literature. This book is one of them.

If you are a lawyer, I think this book should count toward MCLE (Minimum Continuing Legal Education) credit for it has an interesting ethical dilemma:

You are Mr. Utterson, the attorney.  After the mysterious death of Dr. Lanyon, who is your old friend and client, you are given an envelope written by him.  The envelope bears the inscription “Not to be opened till the death or disappearance of Dr. Henry Jekyll.”  You feel that these words sound a trifle sinister as it hints at the demise of your other friend and client, Dr.  Jekyll.  Do you open the envelope against the wishes of your dead client in order to protect your living client or follow the instructions to the letter?

Attorneys have an ethical duty to abide by their client’s wishes, and that duty does not expire at the client’s death despite one’s avid curiosity as to what shocking secrets are contained in the sealed correspondence.

But what if the letter contains information that could protect Dr. Jekyll from death or serious bodily harm?  There may be a conflict of interest between Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Lanyon.

In some jurisdictions (like California), attorneys are ethically prohibited from representing clients whose interests are adverse to each other.  Should it happen, the attorney should secure a waiver from his clients.  Seeing as how Dr. Lanyon is dead, that choice is out.

On the other hand, maybe there isn’t enough information to determine whether there is an actual conflict of interest.  This analysis isn’t really central to the plot, but a fun side note to debate and discuss.  I’ll let you find out for yourself what Mr. Utterson decides.

I think Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde was reincarnated as one of my previous bosses.  Utterson was horrified to learn that his client, Dr. Jekyll, a well-respected man of the community was also Mr. Hyde, the murderer.   Utterson need not feel too bad  because I am almost certain that Dr Jekyll/Mr. Hyde was reincarnated into one of my previous bosses and definitely one (or more) of the opposing counsels I have dealt with.

Have you read this book?  What did you think? Maybe you have encountered someone like has similar characteristics?  One minute she is kind and sweet, and the next minute they are mean and cruel.