Legal Ethics (LAW-550-002)
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The premise of this course is that studying the legal profession, and particularly its code of ethics, is exciting! May a lawyer rat on her client who is planning to kill someone? Is it permissible for a prosecutor to impersonate a defense lawyer in order to save lives? May a lawyer represent two criminal co-defendants? Must a prosecutor turn in his best friend, a fellow prosecutor who has concealed evidence from a criminal defendant?
This course examines the regulation of the legal profession with a focus on the ethical issues most often encountered by public interest lawyers. Public interest lawyering is counter-cultural in the legal profession, but the substantive law governing lawyers is generally the same regardless of practice area.
We will read very few judicial opinions. Instead, we will work on ungraded problems, most of which are based on real situations that lawyers faced. Instead of assigning you to read appellate opinions, I will provide you with the relevant legal framework (most importantly, the Rules of Professional Conduct) and then ask you to step into the shoes of a lawyer who has to make a critical decision, often caught between conflicting loyalties. In each class, you will cast an anonymous vote to register what you would do as the problems unfold. Class discussions will explore and evaluate the legal, ethical and strategic justifications for each possible course of action. After the discussion of each problem, I will reveal what happened in the real case. (Class participation will be a part of your final grade.)
Issues we address will include confidentiality and publicity; allocation of decision-making authority; conflicts of interest between individual clients and the broader client community or particular social justice movement; settlement and fee shifting; and special problems in organizational, class, and mass representation. The course may also examine the history of public interest law, issues confronting the public interest movement, and career options.
Textbooks and Other Materials
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First Class Readings
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