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Technology, Ethics, Professionalism and Legal Education (Program)

Paula Schaefer, University of Tennessee College of Law (US) (Moderator); Francesca Bartlett, TC Bierne School of Law, The University of Queensland (Australia); Katherine Mulcahy, The College of Law Australia (Australia); Kylie Burns, Griffith Law School (Australia) and Lillian Corbin, School of Law, University of New England (US)

Technology, Ethics, Professionalism and Legal Education  

Paula Schaefer, Matthew Homewood, Francesca Bartlett and Katherine Mulcahy: Technology, Ethics, and Legal Education

This panel will consider various ways that technology can be used to integrate attorney professional conduct issues into legal education. We will discuss how technology can be utilized to create and deliver simulated case files to students in Civil & Criminal Litigation and eDiscovery classes. These simulations require students to develop competence in using technology and to comply with professional conduct obligations in resolving ethical issues. Technology and social media is an inescapable part of the modern attorney’s professional life. We will discuss how social media scenarios can be included in an attorney ethics class to prompt discussion of lawyers’ ethics and regulatory approaches to professionalism. Finally, we will consider how online learning experiences that incorporate ethics issues can be utilized to provide students post-graduation “practical legal training” as a prerequisite to licensing in Australia.

Kylie Burns and Lillian Corbin: E-Professionalism, Legal Professionalism and Legal Education: Ethical Behaviour and the Use of Technology

Legal educators are primarily charged with preparing law students for their entry into the legal profession. More specifically this means introducing students to the concept of ‘professionalism’ – the idea that those in the profession have shared norms, high standards of competency and conduct, the ability to exercise professional judgment and have a sense of public obligation. Traditionally this called for a focus on the physical lawyer/client, lawyer/lawyer, or lawyer/court communications. However, legal providers and courts increasingly utilize social media as part of professional practice. In addition, the current generation of law students are heavy social and professional users of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. In this digital age, preparing students for life as a lawyer is even more complex than in the past. This paper will argue that the legal profession and legal education needs to encompass and implement a concept of e-professionalism i.e., ‘the development of an online persona that is congruent with the values and ethics of the profession and portrays use of self in a way that is respectful and demonstrates professional integrity’ (Chenoweth & McAuliffe, 2015, p. 306). Or put differently ‘as the attitudes and behaviors that reflect traditional professionalism paradigms but are manifested through digital media’. (Joseph M. Kaczmarczyk et al, 2013, 165). This paper will initially draw on the academic literature to show that e-professionalism has been acknowledged by the health and other disciplines in their curricula, but law has yet to substantially engage with this challenge. It will suggest that lawyers, as the gatekeepers of the law, are responsible for the administration of justice and ensuring the dignity of individuals in society. It is therefore important that they adhere to high ethical standards in social media use. The paper will then canvass what i means, in practical terms, to assimilate the principles of e-professionalism into legal education e.g., for students to be aware of how their communications with their peers, their teachers and others using emails and posting messages onto Learning Managements Systems can damage their integrity and illustrate how similar instances occurring when they are professionals can undermine the public’s confidence in the legal profession more broadly. In addition, and perhaps even more importantly for the employment prospects of law students, the paper will illustrate how poor behavior on social media sites can have detrimental consequences. Finally the paper will argue for a concept of e-professionalism that encompasses the positive aspects of social media use in the legal profession and equips lawyers and students to use social media in ways that enhance employability, the reputation of the profession and access to justice.

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