Class considers profession

March 29, 2010
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IL reporter Rebecca Berfanger wrote this post.

Last week, I was invited to sit in on a class for an article I’m working on about the legal professions class at Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington.

As part of a new requirement at the law school that started last spring, 1L students take an ethics and professional responsibility class that offers a new look at not only how to think like a lawyer but also what it means to practice as a lawyer.

By teaching students about real situations that had real ethical dilemmas, the professors go through the situations step by step, including the specific rules of professional conduct that can be applied.

During the March 23 class, the situation involved an associate at a large international law firm who had learned the day before a deposition with another large law firm’s attorneys that an employee of the client company may have forged documents.

In this scenario, explained professor and attorney John Steele, the associate has to choose between letting the client attend the deposition and either lie about or admit to forging the documents. Or the associate can ask opposing counsel to postpone the deposition without going into too much detail to tip them off as to what is going on. Neither situation is an easy thing to handle for the associate and his client.

Steele then asked the students what they would do and why, going rule by rule as to the ethical issues involved, including best practices of how to stay out of the situation in the first place when representing a client and an employee of a client.

Steele, who flies in every week from California to teach the four-credit course while maintaining his law practice, has taught legal ethics before, but said this was a truly unique offering making it worth the travel time to Indiana.

Other than ethical issues, the course offers in-depth discussions about different types of legal jobs to consider. In an opening lecture, Steele showed a pie chart that illustrated only about 4 percent of legal jobs are at big law firms, and the rest are in many other areas.

Because the class I attended happened to involve attorneys at a large law firm, he explained to students how to react to the situation if they ever find themselves in that young associate’s predicament particularly with a large firm, but the advice could also apply to a small firm. Luckily, he said, most firms would rally around their young associates, and it wouldn’t hurt their jobs if they needed to speak up.

In this situation, for example, he encouraged the students not only to figure out what the professional rules were that would apply, but to start by simply asking, “Who is the client?” and go from there.

If you’re a student at I.U. Maurer School of Law or another school with this type of class, what did you think? If you haven’t taken this version of the legal professions class in law school, how did your ethics class compare?

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  1. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well