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Fall 2024 Course

Legal Profession

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam
Final paper is required

This course focuses on the delicate interface of the three areas: professional responsibility, personal identity, and the practice arenas lawyers occupy. Professional responsibility is the area of law that requires attorneys to act ethically, legally, and competently. Personal identity is a combination of how we understand ourselves—the ways we self-identify, our values, and political commitments—and how others classify us. These categories, whether self-actualized or imposed, can include but are not limited to, race, gender, sexual orientation, class background, political ideology, and religion. Practice arenas vary in terms of setting (e.g., “Big Law,” government, public interest) as well as subject matter areas (e.g., civil/criminal, litigation/transactional). Accordingly, the course endeavors to help students think about the boundaries of ethical decision-making in different practice areas vis-à-vis professional obligations and personal identity.

The course is interdisciplinary. In addition to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, we will engage historical and social science scholarship on the organization of the profession, court cases, and mainstream accounts (e.g., op-eds and podcasts). On a thematic level, we will explore issues that are mainstays of the typical legal ethics course, such as the attorney-client relationship, confidentiality, and conflicts of interest. But we will focus on a range of issues, some of which may be economic. For example, how are market conditions rejiggering the professional obligations of the world’s largest law firms and the American public interest bar? Other discussions may be more political in nature. How do we make sense of the proliferation of progressive prosecutors and conservative public interest organizations? What challenges arise when a person works in a federal agency led by a politicized figure from the opposing political party? And then, there are longstanding social issues, such as the glass ceiling faced by various historically underrepresented groups across legal practice. The overall goal is to use materials and discussions to get students to think critically about the practice settings they will be entering (or may transition to later in their careers) and the different kinds of professional, ethical, and personal challenges that may arise in those spaces.

Before enrollment, prospective students are encouraged to consider their readiness to actively engage in approximately 100-120 pages of weekly reading and how equipped they will be to talk, debate, or write about the materials, as the course involves significant in-class engagement.

Note: This course is only available to JD 3Ls and LLM students.

This course will meet over 8-9 weeks, dates TBD.