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Teaching Professionalism in Context: Insights from Students, Clients, Adversaries and Judges


Melissa L. Breger


Albany Law School

Gina M. Calabrese


St. John's University - School of Law

Theresa A. Hughes


St. John's University - School of Law


South Carolina Law Review, Vol. 55, pp. 303-347, January 2004

Abstract:     
Professionalism is a concept widely articulated within the legal community, yet a clear and uniform definition remains elusive. Legal commentators from the academy, the judiciary, and the practicing bar continuously attempt to define professionalism with negligible resolution. It is a term that is often used, perhaps overused in conversation, and at times underutilized in legal practice, thereby transforming itself from an ideal into a cliche over time.

As a result, professionalism holds various meanings and the contextual nature of professionalism requires a definitional reshaping as circumstances and players change. In an effort to examine the concept of professionalism from various perspectives, this article explores the meaning of professionalism from our own perspectives, as well as those of students, clients, adversaries, and judges.

The purposes of this Article are threefold: (1) to emphasize the dynamic and adaptable nature of professionalism, especially in the context of litigation; (2) to explore the various points of view of professionalism, with a focus upon clinical law practice; and (3) to suggest that we, as clinical law professors, utilize these observations of adapting professionalism in our teaching. Additionally, this Article explores how, as clinical law professors, we may use the various perspectives of professionalism as lessons and learning tools for our law students.

This Article is divided into six parts. Part I examines the role and perspective of the clinical law professor in teaching and defining professionalism in context. Part II identifies the perspectives of law students who are learning about professionalism. Part III documents many of our clients' perspectives and how we can teach law students professional behavior through representation of clients. Parts IV and V address the unique perspectives of the bar and bench and how we should teach law students to recognize and respond to opponents' and judges' concepts of professional behavior. Part VI summarizes our thesis - that professionalism should be taught explicitly in the clinical setting from a variety of contexts.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: clinical education, clinical law practice, professionalsim

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Date posted: July 26, 2004  

Suggested Citation

Breger, Melissa L. and Calabrese, Gina M. and Hughes, Theresa A., Teaching Professionalism in Context: Insights from Students, Clients, Adversaries and Judges. South Carolina Law Review, Vol. 55, pp. 303-347, January 2004. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=566061

Contact Information

Melissa L. Breger (Contact Author)
Albany Law School ( email )
80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States
518-445-2311 (Phone)
Gina M. Calabrese
St. John's University - School of Law ( email )
8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
United States
Theresa A. Hughes
St. John's University - School of Law ( email )
8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
United States
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