Challenges to the Academy: Reflections on the Teaching of Legal Ethics in Australia
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AbstractHaving practised law in a variety of contexts for many years, I decided to turn to teaching somewhat later in life than is common in Australia. This decision was prompted partly by dissatisfaction with the practice of law, particularly the values that had begun to permeate what is seen as successful legal practice. My interest in legal ethics is fuelled by a desire to help students appreciate the personal and social value of legal practice and the role that ethical professional conduct and social responsibility have in that equation. I am still grappling with the connection between my experiences and observations in practice and delivering the sum total of that learning in an academic context. Whilst the outcome, producing ethical lawyers, is clear, the challenges in achieving this goal, particularly in an institutional learning environment, are ever increasing. In this article I argue that the process of learning legal ethics should take place during the undergraduate period of study in a way that exposes students to the real as well as to the theoretical dimensions of legal ethics. I draw on my experience as a teacher of the subjects Civil Procedure for Resolving Disputes and Clinical Legal Education to illustrate the points that I make about the importance of marrying theory and practice.