Why is the study of Professionalism, Ethics, and Integrity important for Law Students?

-I’m Aric Short. I’m the Vice Dean of Texas A&M University School of Law. And I’m joined today by Patti Turner and Roland Johnson. Patti is the Chairman of the Board of the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and the Chief of Staff and General Counsel at Texas Wesleyan University. And Roland is a partner at Harris Finley & Vogel and former President of the State Bar of Texas. Thank you both for joining me today. Can you tell me why the study of professionalism and ethics and integrity are important for law students today? Is that a component that should be in the general programming of law schools, and if so, why? Patti, why don;t we start with you? -You know, I think it’s really important to teach students about professionalism and ethics in law school– besides just the rules that they’re going to have to learn so that they’ll be competent to practice law and to pass the bar exam, to also help them begin to integrate those core values as kind of the bedrock of their practice.

And I think it’s important for them to hear the education piece from professors and to see it from practitioners, because each generation, at each stage of life, manifest professionalism in a little bit different way. And I think they need to have the value of people that have come before them to educate them so they’ll know what they’re going to expect when they go apply for jobs or when they’re going to go out and practice against people who may be practicing 10 years, 40 years, or just brand new practitioners– to have kind of a basis of expectation that they should live into as new lawyers.

And so I think it’s great to get it all the way through. I think it’s just one of those threads that are going to go with them their whole career. And it really should start here in law school. -I’d say what better time than in law school? I mean, gee whiz, you’re forming your professional identity. You’re learning how to relate to others that you are in competition with, all jointly responsible for access to justice or the judicial system or moving the third branch of government and being sure it works.

You’re maybe not under the gun of being in the courtroom or with a client that’s yelling at you on the phone or in the room right across from somebody. You may have a little bit more reflective time during the law school years to think about those things. But I personally believe that those law schools that emphasize this and those lawyers that take advantage of this as law students are ones that are going to have something a bit more distinctive about them, because they’ve already thought through these things and know who they are and what they stand for and know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

I mean, they’re going to be able to answer those questions instead of being able to just go back and forth between different pressures that law practice might have with it. It’s a great time to pay attention to it. -Thank you. .