Ethics in the undergraduate curriculum: lessons from New Zealand

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Slides for the presentation by Ken Mackinnon (Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen), at the UKCLE event, Legal ethics at the academic stage: exploring the issues, on 10 May 2010.

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Ethics in the undergraduate curriculum: lessons from New Zealand

  1. 1. Ethics in the undergraduate curriculum: Lessons from New Zealand Ken Mackinnon
  2. 2. The NZ background <ul><li>Profession is “fused” – admission is as a “solicitor and barrister” </li></ul><ul><li>Must have (4 year) LLB to enter profession </li></ul><ul><li>Six universities have law schools </li></ul><ul><li>Graduates must pass a Professional Legal Studies course (13 weeks) prior to admission </li></ul><ul><li>A core curriculum (6 subjects) is set by the Council of Legal Education </li></ul>
  3. 3. NZ Council of Legal Education <ul><li>Originally established in 1930 </li></ul><ul><li>Comprises judges, deans, the profession, student/ graduate, a lay member </li></ul><ul><li>Approves LLB programmes/ Law Schools </li></ul><ul><li>Sets syllabus for core papers (modules) </li></ul><ul><li>Appoints moderators for the core papers </li></ul><ul><li>Requires external assessment of other papers </li></ul><ul><li>Monitors enrolments and pass rates </li></ul>
  4. 4. The catalyst <ul><li>Fraud by two partners of the Renshaw Edwards law firm in 1992 amounted to $29m </li></ul><ul><li>Emptied the Law Society fidelity fund and led to an additional levy on practitioners of $10000 each </li></ul><ul><li>Law Society sponsored a report on legal ethics </li></ul><ul><li>Law Practitioners Act 1982 reviewed and then replaced by Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 </li></ul>
  5. 5. Cotter Roper report <ul><li>Conducted by </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Brent Cotter QC, former Minister of Justice, now Dean of Law in Saskatchewan </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Chris Roper AM, Director Centre for Legal Education, Sydney </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Found </li></ul><ul><ul><li>significant gap in lawyers’ knowledge of rules of professional conduct and ability to recognise and handle ethical issues </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Recommended </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ethics teaching in degree </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ethics training in “Professionals” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>post-qualifying continuing professional development in professional responsibility </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Outcome <ul><li>The CLE required all those entering the profession after 1 July 2000 to have a pass in Legal Ethics paper </li></ul><ul><li>[It is not – technically – a core paper in the LLB] </li></ul><ul><li>The Legal ethics paper is </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a half-paper (minimum 24 contact hours) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Taught in 4 th year </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>66% of assessment is a formal examination overseen by CLE moderator and by external examiner </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Objections <ul><li>Reduces choice for students </li></ul><ul><li>Unnecessary </li></ul><ul><li>Added cost </li></ul><ul><li>No one to teach it </li></ul><ul><li>Danger of indoctrination </li></ul>
  8. 8. Legal ethics prescription <ul><li>An introduction to ethical analysis including an examination of various theories of ethics. </li></ul><ul><li>The applicability of ethical analysis to legal practice. </li></ul><ul><li>The concept of a profession and the ethical and professional duties of practitioners (which will include, among other topics, conflicts of interest, confidentiality, duties to the Court, duties of loyalty and fidelity). </li></ul><ul><li>The wider responsibilities of lawyers in the community. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Issues <ul><li>When should it be taught? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>First year? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pervasive? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Final year? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Through clinical placement/training? </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Issues <ul><li>What should be taught? </li></ul><ul><li>Outcomes </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cognitive (structural and substantive knowledge and understanding) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Affective (attitudes, awareness, critical reflection) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Skills (identifying ethical issues, application, problem solving) </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Issues <ul><li>What should be taught? </li></ul><ul><li>Content </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethical theories and concepts, and their application </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Professions and lawyers’ regulatory framework </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Role specific issues </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not indoctrination </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not the detailed Law Society’s rules of conduct </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Concerns <ul><li>Variations in what is taught </li></ul><ul><li>Compulsion engenders resistance </li></ul><ul><li>Large class numbers an obstacle to engaging the students </li></ul><ul><li>Moderator’s views on content </li></ul>

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