LearningPR

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Long title: 
Learning Professional Responsibility for the Practice of Law: the Way Forward
Author(s): 
Cunningham, Clark D.
Author(s)' contact information: 
www.ClarkCunningham.org
Year: 
2015
Country: 
USA

An earlier, abbreviated version of this paper focusing primarily on legal education in the US appears as Learning Professional Responsibility in Lisa Radtke Bliss, Carolyn Kaas, Deborah Maranville & Antoinette Sedillo-Lopez, BUILDING ON BEST PRACTICES (Lexis/Matthew Bender 2015). This working paper will continue to expand to include more information about innovative teaching practices around the world, for example by presentation at the 8th Worldwide Conference of the Global Alliance for Justice Education (Turkey July 2015). The author welcomes correspondence offering comments and suggesting additional materials on learning professional responsibility for inclusion in this survey: cdcunningham@gsu.edu.

An ideal program of instruction for learning professional responsibility prior to receiving a license to practice law would include, in addition to learning the basic “law of lawyering,” all of the following elements:

(1)Before beginning educational interventions intended to develop professional responsibility have all students for the relevant program complete the Defining Issues Test (DIT), the Professional Identity Essay (PIE), and ideally a test of Intermediate Concepts relevant to legal practice. The results of these tests would never be used for student grades but would provide baseline data and results could also be provided back to students for formative assessment. Although anonymous to persons internal to the law school, results should be coded so student responses can be tracked over time.
(2)Use the DIT, PIE, test of Intermediate Concepts and performance based assessment at the completion of the program to provide formative assessment and program evaluation.
(3)Provide early intentional instruction about the structure, values and duties of the legal profession to lay a foundation for professional identity formation.
(4)Introduce students to a variety of ethical theories and social science studies of the legal system to provide a basis to interpret and critique existing norms of legal practice.
(5)Enable students to learn about the wide variety of practice settings, how ethical challenges vary by setting, how institutional contexts can constrain ethical actions, and how exemplary professionals master their practice area by combining exceptional competence with high ethical standards.
(6)Use small group instruction with realistic, complex, exciting and emotionally engaging simulation exercises that contain only clues to embedded ethical dilemmas to develop moral sensitivity, moral reasoning, and moral implementation capacities. Acting in role with self-assessment and personalized feedback from peers and teachers further promotes professional formation.
(7)Recurrently expose students to professional exemplars by learning their stories, interacting with them, observing them in action, and developing mentoring relationships.
(8)Provide repeated opportunities for dialogue with others about “tough calls” and reflection on matters involving the student’s moral core.
(9)Use collaborative and team-based teaching methods.
(10)Provide multiple opportunities to observe actual and simulated legal practice performed by expert practitioners and to reflect about the lessons for ethical conduct in what was observed with the practitioner, a teacher who was not the practitioner, or both.
(11)Provide multiple opportunities for students to engage in real-life work with authentic responsibility, so that the student can experience both satisfaction and regret for her actions, and be challenged to exercise empathy, cultural sensitivity, diligence, perseverance, and courage.

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