Legal Ethics and Professional Conduct

Module code: M3107
Level 6
15 credits in spring semester
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Essay

The role and nature of lawyers' ethics, conduct and regulation continues to be a contentious topic of discussion amongst academics and practitioner groups. The place it should occupy within the undergraduate law syllabus as a component of the future education of lawyers also remains topical. More broadly, professional regulation may be seen as a significant element of modern government and public policy. From those who would categorize the term "lawyers' ethics" as an oxymoron, playing little or no part in the day-today practice of the lawyer as hired gun, to those who place an ethical legal profession at the heart of democratic liberal values, this is a subject area which warrants close academic scrutiny.

The overarching objective of the module will be to deliver a grounding in the theory and practice of lawyers' ethics, conduct and regulation. The focus will primarily be on England and Wales, with some comparative examples, as appropriate. The module will be relevant for those students considering a career practising law as well as those with a more general academic interest in this field.

Module content will draw from key debates and so may vary from year to year, but core elements will remain. Notably the ideals of legal professionalism; professional organisation; professional power and culture; historical and current considerations of professional education, ethics, governance, regulation, discipline and dispute resolution, all as applied to the legal professions. Specific issues will also play a role, for example diligence and confidentiality in relation to client matters and wider professional obligations to third parties and society as a whole. Where relevant, theoretical insights will be drawn from philosophy, the sociology of the legal profession and regulatory theory.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of contemporary academic and practitioner-led debates about lawyers' ethics, conduct and regulation
  • Demonstrate detailed knowledge about the different kinds of ethics, principles and regulatory tools relevant to lawyers
  • Demonstrate understanding of advanced academic and practitioner debates regarding the future of lawyers' ethics and regulation
  • Demonstrate an ability to undertake independent research