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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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