The importance of ethics in the law curriculum: Essential or incidental?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Law Teacher, 2017, 51 (1), pp. 17 - 39
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EversTownsley_Revised_submission_17_June.docxAccepted Manuscript Version236.22 kB
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© 2015 The Association of Law Teachers. Recently, the debate as to whether ethics should be a compulsory requirement of a law degree was refuelled when the English and Welsh Legal Education Training Review (LETR) recommended that professional ethics should be primarily addressed in vocational Legal Services and Education Training programmes and that learning outcomes in the academic curriculum should include reference to morality and the law, the values supporting the legal system and their connection to the role of lawyers. This debate is also occurring in other jurisdictions. In Australia the debate is focused on the proposal that ethics be removed as a compulsory subject in the law degree. This proposal has raised a concern that law students will be denied the opportunity to develop as ethically competent lawyers. This paper argues for the continuation of ethics as a core component of a law degree and evidences the model used for the teaching of ethics in the law degree at the University of Technology Sydney in support of our argument. The background to the model is examined to highlight the significance of student feedback and ongoing curriculum review, including the alignment of parallel pedagogical factors. This model serves as an example of not only why ethics should be core to a law degree but, in order to provide graduates who are ethical and reflective practitioners, why ethics should be pervasively taught throughout the degree and supported by an introductory and capstone presence.
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