Ethics and Professionalism Symposia
On October 7, 2016, the 17th Annual Georgia Symposium on Professionalism and Ethics was held at the Mercer Law School. The co-sponsors of this event were the Mercer Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism, the Mercer Law Review and the Mercer Phronesis Project for the Exploration of Character, Practical Wisdom and Professional Formation.
The theme of the symposium was "Educational Interventions to Cultivate Professional Identity in Law Students." By "professional identity," the organizers of the symposium meant the following, which we quoted from a forthcoming book on the formation of professional identity:
"A lawyer's professional identity is a deep sense of self in role. It includes a set of virtues, skills and dispositions that enable the lawyer to serve clients and the public well in complex, stressful and uncertain circumstances, including ones that present questions of ethics, morality and professional responsibility."
The symposium was organized around the following questions:
Assume that a law school does not have any educational intervention (e.g., a class or a series of classes) specifically tied to the cultivation of professional identity. Is it worthwhile to establish one?
- Is it necessary to do so, or do law students have the tools they need to develop professional identity on their own?
- Is it possible to be effective, or is the development of professional identity not susceptible to educational intervention?
- Is the investment of the resources necessary to any such educational intervention worthwhile, in light of competing demands in the curriculum and the changing market for legal services?
- What can we learn from efforts at the undergraduate level or in other types of professional education regarding the worth of educational interventions to cultivate professional identity?
Assume that a tentative decision is made that establishing an educational intervention is worth trying. Assume further that it will strive to accomplish four goals: (1) the students will be sensitized to recognize issues that have a moral component or, more narrowly, that implicate the lawyer’s professional responsibilities; (2) the students will be motivated to resolve the issues they recognize in appropriate ways; (3) the students will be able to reason to an appropriate decision about such issues; and (4) the students will be able to implement their decisions.
- What is it that law students should be sensitized to? In other words, what are the virtues or dispositions that lawyers need to have and deploy in order to serve clients and the public well?
- What are the situations and pressures that lawyers are likely to face in which these virtues will be implicated?
- What are the best pedagogical techniques to cultivate sensitivity to virtues, dispositions and obstacles?
- What would motivate a law student to make the effort to cultivate a professional identity that incorporates these virtues and dispositions and to be inclined to try to deploy them despite obstacles?
- What are the best pedagogical techniques to cultivate such motivation?
Reasoning and Judgment
- How should law students be instructed to reason and make judgments about complex issues of morality and professional responsibility?
- What are the best pedagogical techniques to promote the ability to engage in such reasoning?
- What strategies can we devise for the implementation of a decision that implicates morality or professional responsibility?
- What are the best pedagogical techniques to promote the ability to engage in such implementation?
Assume that an educational intervention is designed and is ready to be implemented. How does one go about measuring whether the intervention will have its intended effect?
- Is it possible to develop “before and after” instruments to detect whether the intervention had any impact? If so, what should they look like?
- Are longitudinal studies required, and, if so, how should they be designed and implemented?
Speakers for the symposium included:
Dr. Larry Goleman, Executive Director of the Washington Theological Consortium
Dr. Richard Cruess and Dr. Sylvia Cruess, Centre for Medical Education, McGill University
Professor Elizabeth Vozzola, University of St. Joseph
Professor Emeritus Jack Sammons, Mercer University Law School
Lt. Col. Benjamin Grimes, United States Army
Professor Larry Krieger, Florida State University Law School
Professor Neil Hamilton, University of St. Thomas School of Law
Professor Clark Cunningham, Georgia State University School of Law
Professor Tim Floyd, Mercer University Law School
Professor Kendall Kerew, Georgia State University School of Law
The video of the 2016 symposium proceedings will be available soon and will be linked to this page. Articles and essays related to the symposium have been published in Volume 68 of the Mercer Law Review.
To read the response of Professor Vozzola to the article submitted by Professors Bebeau, Thoma and Cunningham, click here.
Previous symposia sponsored by the Mercer Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalis include:
Ethics and Professionalism in Settlement Negotiations (2001)
Lessons from Enron (2003)
Judicial Ethics and Professionalism in a New Era of Judicial Selection (2004)
Ethics and Professionalism in the Digital Age (2008)
Defining and Enforcing the Federal Prosecutor’s Duty to Disclose Exculpatory Evidence (2012)
Jacquelyn Smith, Comment: The Proposed Fairness in Disclosure of Evidence Act of 2012: More Cons than Pros with Proposed Disclosure Requirements in Federal Criminal Cases, 64 Mercer Law Review 723 (2013)