Saturday, February 14, 2009

Guest Blogger of the Month Post: A Law Student Perspective on Ethics and Professionalism in Law School

My name is Chad Johnson, and it is my pleasure to be a guest blogger on the Law Student Ethics blog. I am a third-year law student at Indiana University Maurer School of Law-Bloomington and the 2008-2009 ABA Law Student Division liaison to the Center for Professional Responsibility.

Like many of you, when I began law school, I had little sense of what area of law my career would ultimately focus upon; I simply knew that in three years, I would become an attorney. As I have progressed through law school, I have studied various fields of law and developed interests in several different practice areas. Yet, among all the different areas of law, I have discovered an important constant: ethics and professional responsibility. It is essential that as law students we develop strong ethical principles and a sense of professional responsibility, because ethical questions will inevitably arise in your future legal career, and perhaps even during your time as a law student.

One such area that law students should learn about during (and ideally before) law school involves issues of character and fitness. Each of us will be required to meet certain standards before we are declared fit to practice law; therefore, maintaining professional conduct and avoiding unethical situations is of vital importance, even during law school before many of us have any idea where our career is headed. For example, some students succumb to the pressure and intense competition of law school and resort to cheating on exams or plagiarizing papers. Certainly these cases are the extreme, but it should be noted that plagiarism can also be committed unintentionally, resulting from poor research and writing habits or procrastination. Staying on top of assignments and managing your time effectively can reduce mistakes and errors that could become disastrous.

On a more positive note, law school affords students many opportunities to begin to develop a professional character that will enhance your career. I encourage you to get involved in school clubs, volunteer organizations, and bar associations - these provide you with opportunities to not only gain experience, but in many cases you will be able to network with important, influential attorneys who can provide advice on how to maximize your potential. Additionally, don't forget that your professional network begins with your law school peers -- getting involved in clubs and extracurricular activities will allow you to get to know other students and develop relationships that will form the foundation of your professional network.

Now I don't claim to be an expert in these substantive areas -- I continue to learn more and more as I study the Model Rules in my Legal Professions class, but I even more as I strive to conduct my life in a manner consistent with my desire to enter an honorable legal profession entrusted with the care of others and self regulation. I don't mean to sound negative as I talk about these important issues either. Quite the opposite, really: learning and practicing proper conduct, and exercising ethical behavior can lead to great happiness and success, not only in your life as a law student, but throughout your future legal career.

Please contact me if you have questions, concerns, or just want to get a fellow law student's view on the importance of ethics and professional responsibility.

No comments: