Ethical Education Through the Student Law Clinic

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In the last edition of Legal Ethics, Duncan Webb, Mary Anne Noone and Judith Dickson drew attention to measures introduced in Australia and New Zealand to promote professional standards and ethical practice through legal education. Webb argues that by introducing a compulsory course covering the philosophical basis of legal professional ethics as well as its practical application, it is possible to teach students to recognise ethical problems. Noone and Dickson?s approach, on the other hand, is to teach legal ethics through hands-on experience. They believe that where“students assume that role of a lawyer and are required to take on the responsibility, under supervision, for providing legal services to real clients”the process of debate and decision-making provides a powerful tool in making students ethically aware. Whilst there has been much discussion about how legal ethics ought to be taught, Australia and New Zealand are both committed to making legal ethics an integral part of the undergraduate curriculum. In contrast, ethics and professional responsibility do not form part of the compulsory content of qualifying law degrees in England and Wales. Whilst some law schools offer optional units on legal ethics, academic lawyers have in general been slow to have“values and high ethical standards”5 as a distinct component of the legal education curriculum. As Webb has observed:“academics have objected on the basis that it is not an area of serious legal scholarship, and that it requires additional funding. …”He also suggests that students can be critical of what they perceive to be“offensive brainwashing, or meaningless waffle”and they would rather spend time on what they consider“worthwhile subjects”.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • Legal Ethics is an international and interdisciplinary journal devoted to the field of legal ethics.
    The journal provides an intellectual meeting ground for academic lawyers, practitioners and policy-makers to debate developments shaping the ethics of law and its practice at the micro and macro levels.
    Its focus is broad enough to encompass empirical research on the ethics and conduct of the legal professions and judiciary, studies of legal ethics education and moral development, ethics development in contemporary professional practice, the ethical responsibilities of law schools, professional bodies and government, and jurisprudential or wider philosophical reflections on law as an ethical system and on the moral obligations of individual lawyers.
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