Legal Ethics: Exploring the Ethics of Lawyers and Lawyering - LW617

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5) DR E Curran


LW313/323 A Critical Introduction to Law and LW588/614 Public Law 1.


Not available to non Law students.



This course will give students the opportunity to explore the ways in which moral reasoning can inform the study and practice of lawyering. Students will be asked to think and argue about the (possible) moral dimension of the practice of law. The course will include a theoretical component during which we will explore ways in which we might justify (or deny) a moral dimension to the practice of law. In the practical component we will use case studies (including that of the US government lawyers who provided legal justifications for the use of torture on ‘War on Terror’ prisoners). This case study and others will be used to discuss and debate issues in legal ethics, broadly conceived. The methodology will combine theoretical discussion of the principles that should inform the notion of legal ethics with analysis and discussion of actual moral and ethical dilemmas faced by lawyers and their resolution.

Block 1: Why Legal Ethics? An exploration of the moral reasoning and arguments behind the idea of ‘legal ethics’. Do lawyers have moral responsibilities as well as legal ones?
Block 2: Case studies and the ethical issues they raise. Answers to moral questions and dilemmas in legal practice.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

10 two hour combined lecture/seminars.

Method of assessment

100% coursework consisting of an essay plan worth 20%( due in in the fourth week of the module), essay worth 70% and a mark for seminar participation worth 10%.

Indicative reading

D Luban, Legal Ethics and Human Dignity, CUP 2007
D Markovits, A Modern Legal Ethics: Adversary Advocacy in a Democratic Age, PUP 2010
V Vuletich, and N Miller, The Law, Principles and Practice of Legal Ethics, 1st edn.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will have the ability to:
- Understand the way in which any notion of ‘legal ethics’ must be predicated upon moral (philosophical) reasoning about the practice of law.
- Analyse, evaluate and engage with philosophical arguments about lawyers’ moral responsibilities and moral role(s)
- Demonstrate an awareness of and ability to predict the ethical issues that will typically arise from various legal scenarios and outcomes.
- Analyse, debate and discuss alternative responses to ethical dilemmas and questions that arise in legal practice.
- Use case studies to analyse and critically evaluate responses by lawyers to ethical dilemmas and questions.
- Demonstrate an understanding of the ways in which questions in legal ethics intersect law and legal practice, moral philosophy and professional/practical ethics.

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