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Grounding Legal Ethics Learning in Social Scientific Studies of Lawyers at Work

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Abstract:

Legal ethics education, in Australia and elsewhere, has emphasised normative accounts of lawyers' professional responsibility. In the alternative we suggest legal ethical education should be informed by social scientific studies of lawyers' work. We argue that these studies reveal that legal practice is permeated with opportunities for choice, despite the rules and contextual factors that influence lawyersv practice decisions. We suggest that teaching that is designed to encourage students to come to terms with both the frequency and the situational complexity of ethical decision making, in the many discretionary spaces that inhabit the lawyer' s role, may result in qualitatively better learning outcomes in legal ethics education.

Keywords: discretion and choice in lawyering; ethical deliberation; ethics in legal education; ethics learning; lawyers' ethical choices; social scientific studies of lawyers

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • 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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