Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Incorporating Professionalism Into Doctrinal Courses

When I taught legal ethics a few years ago, I told the students that legal ethics was the one topic that they would be using everyday in practice. When I have taught legal writing, I have included material on professionalism, even on the first day. (see Legal Writing, Professionalism, and Legal Ethics) Over the last few weeks, I have been reading casebooks and supplemental texts that incorporate professionalism into doctrinal courses. I am now convinced that professionalism should be a part of substantive courses.

Two recent series of law books integrate ethics into doctrinal courses.  The Context and Practice Series from Carolina Academic Press is a new kind of casebook that incorporates skills training and professionalism into doctrinal casebooks. Each chapter includes a professionalism section at the end, which deals with specifics ethics problems related to the topic of that chapter.

While the supplemental skills training texts in the Skills & Values Series from LexisNexis do vary in format, most of them include materials on ethics training. As I stated in a post last week, I am especially impressed by Discovery Practice by David I.C. Thomson (2010). In this book, Professor Thomson makes ethics an integral part of discovery teaching. Considering that discovery involves the tension between the ethical duties of zealous representation and confidentiality to the client with the duties of fairness and disclosure to the court and to other parties, it makes a great deal of sense to include professionalism here.

In sum, I agree with the Carnegie Report that we need to teach professionalism better in law school. Probably the best way of doing this to incorporate skills training into doctrinal courses, especially now that casebooks and supplemental texts allow professors to easily do this.

(Scott Fruehwald)

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