Drexel Law Review
Law schools have begun to raise the bar beyond the baseline mandates and aspirational goals of MacCrate and Carnegie, and are looking seriously at how to implement the suggested methods of Best Practices and/or other innovative models. Facing increasing pressure to prepare law students to be ethical, competent practitioners, law schools must rise to the challenge of introducing a broad range of practical skills and ethical values across the curriculum and throughout the students' three years of law school. It is no longer reasonable that a single required course in professional responsibility will somehow suffice to instill the long-lasting and deep values in legal ethics expected by the members of our profession, clients, and the American public. Instead, law schools are introducing more experiential opportunities throughout the curriculum that offer students the opportunity to integrate and apply the range of skills and substantive law that they have learned.
These experiential opportunities seem to be unavailable during the first year of law studies entirely. This is a missed opportunity, since first-year courses are fertile ground for exposure to principles of professional responsibility because it is in this time period that students begin learning foundational lawyering skills. First-year law faculty face unique challenges as they seek to orient law students to basic legal methods, analysis, and the concept of doctrinal law stemming from cases and statutes. Our own teaching experiences and research have shown that offering students the opportunity to apply doctrine in a practical context through simulated client interactions leads to a richer and more complete legal education, which we believe better prepares students for the ethical and competent practice of law. As part of these simulations, students are given a chance to experiment with foundational lawyering skills, such as client interviewing and counseling, problem solving, drafting, and synthesis of law and fact. While experimenting with these skills, students will also wrestle with the types of ethical dilemmas they will face in practice.
This Article, in large measure, is designed to introduce one such simulation, with academic and pedagogical support, to further the premise that introducing discussions of ethical layers in the first-year doctrinal courses will enhance both the students' understanding of such first-year courses and the students' own professional identities. These discussions may even inform and improve the professors' doctrinal teaching. We share one example of how a Contracts professor and a Lawyers' Ethics professor are responding to these challenges in a first-year classroom and offer theoretical and practical support for the notion that providing students with the opportunity to develop and/or hone essential lawyering skills through simulations within the context of a doctrinal class will better prepare students for the ethical and competent practice of law. By working together to share our expertise in doctrine, skills, and legal ethics, we believe that exercises like the one discussed in this Article help students learn the substance of the doctrinal subject explored at a deeper level. It also lays the groundwork for students to begin considering the ethical implications present as they analyze legal issues. Finally, students can begin to see how the application of doctrine necessarily involves a range of lawyering skills, and not just a discrete application of one area of law or one skill.
This Article offers support for the integration of ethical considerations into the first year of law school, generally focusing on the ABA Standards for Law School Accreditation and the Carnegie Report as forces driving the need for opportunities for first-year law students to consider ethics in context. The result is a greater understanding of the relevant pedagogy and a catalyst for creating opportunities to develop students' professional identities. We examine the learning objectives sought to be satisfied through the integration of ethics and contracts and provide a description of this problem-centered exercise usable in any first-year Contracts class, with the fact pattern and other supporting documentation necessary to run the simulation attached as Appendices. The Article concludes with anecdotal results from the Authors' use of this exercise and suggestions for assessment tools for faculty to use in evaluating the exercise.
Miriam R. Albert and Jennifer A. Gundlach,
Bridging the Gap: How Introducing Ethical Skills Exercises Will Enrich Learning in First Year Courses, 5 Drexel L. Rev. 165 (2012-2013)
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