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Should Legal Ethics be Taught? Continental and Common Law Perspectives

Should Legal Ethics be Taught? Continental and Common Law Perspectives (Program)

Cristina Garcia Pascual, University of Valencia (Spain); Lughaidh Kerin, Middlesex University (UK); and Massimo La Torre, University of Catanzaro (Italy)

Should Legal Ethics be Taught? Continental and Common Law Perspectives


Cristina Garcia Pascual: Legal Education without Legal Ethics

Traditionally, professional ethics in the countries of continental law has not found its place in the curricula of law schools and has been largely, and in the best case, an internal discipline of professional bodies themselves. After the last wave of reforms brought about by the so-called Bologna plan, the situation in this regard has not changed. Legal education continues today being anchored in the accumulation of knowledge and information that, undoubtedly, is useful, but not effective, when facing the expertise required by legal professions, Llewellyn’s “law jobs”. In many of the new curricula the so-called materias formativas, what Germans call Grundlagen, have lost weight, this change being curiously justified in the name of greater specialization because of, we are told, the market demands. The market demands professionals, and professionals do not seem to need, in the eyes of this new spirit of time, the legal philosophical reflection, or the theory of argumentation and interpretation. Nor would they need any legal ethics. Surely, the reasons for this exclusion are easy to guess, some of which have a long tradition, and others are linked to the new times.

Lughaidh Kerin: Undergraduates Law Students and Legal Ethics: A London Perspective

This paper will explore some of the challenges of inculcating legal ethics into the curriculum at undergraduate level. It will do so in the context of a common law jurisdiction where the academic and vocational elements of legal education are often treated as separate and distinct.

It will briefly delve into specific jurisdictional (UK - England & Wales) and institutional (Middlesex University – London) constraints before focusing on the role of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as an avenue for students to learn about the realities of practice and the attendant ethical issues. It will submit that ADR role play and simulation exercises have the potential to bring to life this alien world for students, acting as a bridge supporting awareness of the interplay between legal and ethical issues in complex scenarios.

The paper will also touch upon broader efforts to encourage collegial buy-in to integrate ethical issues into different subjects throughout the life-cycle of a degree. The idea is thus to explore the mainstreaming of legal ethics across the curriculum.

The paper will conclude that to allow students to complete a law degree without appropriate exposure to legal ethics would be to do a disservice both to those students and to the profession, of which at least some will be future practitioners.

Olanike S. Adelakun-Odewale: Rethinking the Approach to Legal Education and Legal Professional Ethics in Africa

The role of lawyers in any democratic society cannot be overemphasized. This is so because lawyers as judges, in private or corporate practice, in the academics or in government, shape the society and the lives of their fellow human beings. In Nigeria, lawyers’ roles are most visible in litigation and to this end, the quality of justice achieved lies in the quality of decisions of the courts which are mainly based on the quality of arguments presented before the judges coupled with the ability of the judges to apply legal reasoning to facts laid before them. All these come down to the quality of legal education in the country. The curriculum at both the university and law school level is limited to theoretical general law knowledge and procedural law within the confines of the country. International law, as a course, is elective and students are hardly exposed to comparative law analysis at the undergraduate level. Also, the academic legal education trend in Nigeria is not moving with technology advancement around the globe thereby making law a limited profession for the bulk of people trained in law in Nigeria. In as much as great emphasis is placed on the ethics of the profession, the quality of lawyers that are turned out every year seems to be on the wane compared to international standard. The capacity of some Nigerian lawyers to compete healthily with their foreign counterparts is limited and this is as a result of the conventional methods of training lawyers in Nigeria. This paper will critically examine the present day curriculum for legal training with a view to identifying the setback and the need for a total overhaul or reform in legal training in Nigeria. The paper will analyze the result of comparative analysis of legal education in select African countries and the standard of the ethics of the profession. It will conclude with postulating a curriculum to enhance legal teaching and improve the quality of legal profession in Nigeria.

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