Friday, January 9, 2009

Interesting Survey Results: Law Students on Legal Ethics?

Law students may not always be thrilled to study, contemplate, or discuss legal ethics in or outside of the classroom.

According to the 2008 results of the Law School Survey of Student Engagement:

" Fewer than half of students (42%) indicate that they frequently discuss ethical issues embedded in cases during doctrinal classes.

• Similarly, fewer than half of students (47%) indicate that they frequently reflect on their professional ethics and responsibilities.

• Almost a tenth (9%) of full-time 3L male students and 8% of their female peers report that they never engage in such self-reflection regarding their professional ethics and responsibilities."

According to a 2007 report by the Carnegie Foundation titled Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law, "Law schools fail to complement the focus on skill in legal analyses with effective support for developing ethical and social skills. Students need opportunities to learn about, reflect on and practice the responsibilities of legal professionals. Despite progress in making legal ethics a part of the curriculum, law schools rarely pay consistent attention to the social and cultural contexts of legal institutions and the varied forms of legal practice. To engage the moral imagination of students as they move toward professional practice, seminaries and medical, business and engineering schools employ well-elaborated case studies of professional work. Law schools, which pioneered the use of case teaching, only occasionally do so."

Still, the LSSSE survey reports encouraging news about law schools' efforts to promote ethics and professionalism:

"About three-quarters of all full-time law students (76%) report that their institution “substantially” (very much or quite a bit) encourages the ethical practice of the law.

• Nearly half of full-time students (48%) state that their law school experience substantially contributes to their development of a personal code of values and ethics.

• Part-time students are somewhat more likely than full-time students (81% and 76% respectively) to report that their law school substantially emphasizes encouraging the ethical practice of law."

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