Clinical Professors' Professional Responsibility: Preparing Law Students to Embrace Pro Bono
28 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2011 Last revised: 7 Sep 2011
Date Written: 2011
This article begins by examining the current crisis in the U.S. legal system where approximately three out of four low- and middle-income litigants are denied access to counsel's representation when faced with the loss of essential rights - a home, child custody, liberty and deportation - and where most lawyers decline to fulfill their ethical responsibility of pro bono service to those who cannot afford private counsel. The article traces the evolving ethical standards of a lawyer's professional responsibility that today views every attorney as a public citizen having a special responsibility to the quality of justice.
The author suggests that law professors assume a critical role in law students' decision to embrace or reject its pro bono ethical obligation. The author focuses on clinical faculty and suggests that its leadership within the academy will be crucial to bridge colleagues' world of theory and doctrine, and to connect with practicing lawyers. He illustrates clinical faculty's unique opportunity to incorporate the Model Rules of Professional Conduct by referring to the law reform and individual representation work that his clinical students perform. The author concludes by declaring clinical education presents an ideal opportunity for teaching students to appreciate their professional responsibility to promote access to justice and to embrace pro bono service as an integral element of a lawyer's professional life.
Keywords: right to counsel, access to justice
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