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. "associates are becoming more mercenary. The path to partnership has become longer and more difficult so they are chasing short-term gains like high compensation." GOOD FOR THEM! HELL THERE OUGHT TO BE A UNION!

  2. Let's be honest. A glut of lawyers out there, because law schools have overproduced them. Law schools dont care, and big law loves it. So the firms can afford to underpay them. Typical capitalist situation. Wages have grown slowly for entry level lawyers the past 25 years it seems. Just like the rest of our economy. Might as well become a welder. Oh and the big money is mostly reserved for those who can log huge hours and will cut corners to get things handled. More capitalist joy. So the answer coming from the experts is to "capitalize" more competition from nonlawyers, and robots. ie "expert systems." One even hears talk of "offshoring" some legal work. thus undercutting the workers even more. And they wonder why people have been pulling for Bernie and Trump. Hello fools, it's not just the "working class" it's the overly educated suffering too.

  3. And with a whimpering hissy fit the charade came to an end ... http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2016/07/27/all-charges-dropped-against-all-remaining-officers-in-freddie-gray-case/ WHISTLEBLOWERS are needed more than ever in a time such as this ... when politics trump justice and emotions trump reason. Blue Lives Matter.

  4. "pedigree"? I never knew that in order to become a successful or, for that matter, a talented attorney, one needs to have come from good stock. What should raise eyebrows even more than the starting associates' pay at this firm (and ones like it) is the belief systems they subscribe to re who is and isn't "fit" to practice law with them. Incredible the arrogance that exists throughout the practice of law in this country, especially at firms like this one.

  5. Finally, an official that realizes that reducing the risks involved in the indulgence in illicit drug use is a great way to INCREASE the problem. What's next for these idiot 'proponents' of needle exchange programs? Give drunk drivers booze? Give grossly obese people coupons for free junk food?

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