To Susan Martyn, the term "ethical lawyer" isn't self-contradictory.
In fact, Not an Oxymoron was the working title of the longtime University of Toledo law professor's latest book on legal ethics, published with the possibly more descriptive title Your Lawyer: A User's Guide.
"We try to dispel the notion that lawyers are there to be cutthroat and to win at all costs," she said of the book, released in May and co-authored with Philadelphia lawyer Lawrence Fox.
Mr. Fox, a 35-year law veteran who met Ms. Martyn when they worked together on a project for the American Law Institute, said she has an "infectious enthusiasm" for her work.
"It's not like hitting a home run and having the people cheer, it's sort of dogged work that has to be done," Mr. Fox said of the legal and writing projects Ms. Martyn has worked on, adding the work is important to how the public views lawyers.
At barely 100 pages and featuring a dragon being menaced by a lawyer in shining armor on the cover, the book aims to be a down-to-earth client's guide to lawyers, and is the first consumer-targeted book from publisher LexisNexis. The first version of the cover featured the lawyer armed with a sword, but Ms. Martyn said she sent it back and asked the artist to arm the lawyer with a pen - "The pen is mightier than the sword" - and briefcase.
Lee Pizzimenti, a law professor at the University of Toledo and a former student of Ms. Martyn's, said Ms. Martyn influenced her decision to become a lawyer.
"I think the thing that distinguishes Sue from other people is she's very serious about the subject matter, [but] she's willing to enjoy herself and have an entertaining class," she said.
For example, one year Ms. Pizzimenti and a friend wore Batman masks to class after Ms. Martyn told students about a case in which a woman thought she and the Dark Knight were going to save the world together.
She said Ms. Martyn was not only good-natured about it, but used the incident in her class the next year.
Mr. Fox, an adjunct professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, agreed, and said students assured him they "much prefer Professor Martyn's approach" after she gave a guest lecture to one of his classes.
"When she was done, I thought to myself, 'Oh my God, these students are going to wish they had gone to Toledo,'●" he said.
Ms. Martyn, 58, said she became interested in law after completing her undergraduate education, a bachelor's degree in political science from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.
After working at banks for a few years to put her husband, Peter Martyn, through the seminary, she decided to go to law school.
Since graduating from Marquette University's law school in 1974, she taught first at Wayne State University for five years and then at the University of Toledo, where she is Stoepler Professor of Law and Values. She's written three other books over the past few years with Mr. Fox and served on several legal ethics commissions.
Ethics, she said, has always been an interest.
"The greatest issues are about, 'How do you lead a good life?'●" she said, adding that for those in professions that provide services, such as doctors and lawyers, ethics concerns not only their lives but also their clients.
"That's the whole point of lawyers," Ms. Martyn said. "To serve the client."
Mr. Martyn said his wife is dedicated to her work, but the two also found time to raise to children, Angela, now a dance teacher in Denver, and Sarah, who is pursuing a master's degree in political science at the University of Minnesota.
"We probably aren't as fun-oriented as we should be, just because we've both been so oriented toward work," said Mr. Martyn, who retired a decade ago for health reasons.
Retirement, however, is one of the few things not on Ms. Martyn's mind.
"I'm really having too much fun to retire," she said.
Next on her and Mr. Fox's to-write list are a book for lawyers who represent organizations, an area of law she called "phenomenally complex," and an update on a case book for law students they wrote that was published in 2004.
Contact Eric Lund at: email@example.com or 419-724-6050.