Wednesday, September 27, 2017

On Honesty and Integrity in Legal Education

When I checked the news yesterday, I received a massive shock.  The FBI is investigating my alma mater, the University of Louisville, for corruption in basketball recruiting.  The NCAA had already put U of L on probation for earlier violations, including providing strippers to recruits.  The FBI is also investigating at least five other basketball programs.

Sports stars are role models for children and adults.  Lance Armstrong was a special role model.  He won the Tour de France seven consecutive times after recovering from potentially fatal cancer.  What a person for children to look up to.  He had overcome all obstacles to attain success.  But, he was a fraud.  He had used long-term doping to achieve his success.   A CNN story proclaimed, "The epic downfall of cycling's star, once an idolized icon of millions around the globe, stands out in the history of professional sports."  (here)

Professional athletes cheat; university sports' programs cheat.  Are there any role models left?

My alma mater's story is important for legal education because honesty and integrity are important to legal education, too.  A key purpose of law school is to turn out graduates who have the highest character.   The public puts its trust in the legal profession, and law schools must do their best to make sure their graduates live up to that trust.

Over the last ten years, law schools have often let down that trust.  At least thirteen law schools were sued for defrauding their students.  While the lawsuits were dismissed, they were mainly dismissed for lack of reasonable reliance with the misrepresentation claims not being litigated.  Also, during this tine, many law schools hid their true employment scores, with an entire industry of law school scam critics arising.  These law school scam critics, even though they were often wrong, severely damaged law school recruiting.

Because of the important societal role placed on law schools in helping to create the honesty and integrity of the legal profession, law school administrators and faculty must be above other professions like athletes and politicians.  If students see their law schools cheating, they will think it is okay for them to cheat as lawyers.  "What's wrong with lying; everybody does it?"  "What's wrong with stealing from clients; everybody does it?"

In addition, I renew my call for all law schools to teach professional identity to their students.  (here)  Teaching the ethical rules alone is not enough.  Law schools must reach for their students' souls.

(Scott Fruehwald)

"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
(Woo, woo, woo)
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson
Joltin' Joe has left and gone away
(Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey)"

Paul Simon

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