Educating Culturally Sensible Lawyers: A Study of Student Attitudes About the Role Culture Plays in the Lawyering Process
U. W. Sydney L. Rev., Vol 16, p. 98-126, 2012
30 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2013 Last revised: 18 Apr 2013
Date Written: 2012
Lawyers’ cultural experiences, biases, and perspectives may differ from those of clients, colleagues, and judges. Awareness of such differences is critical to effective representation because cultural perspectives may affect numerous aspects of the lawyering process, such as interviewing, counseling, negotiating, strategising, and persuading. Empirical data that informs the debate about the need to teach students to work across cultures is particularly relevant as lawyers serve increasingly diverse populations and transnational practice continues to grow. In this article, we describe a survey developed to provide law faculties with data to help assess the need for cultural competence education and to inform the discussion of what that education might encompass. In this article, we discuss the reasons to consider developing students’ abilities to work effectively across cultures, the survey design and methodology, and the survey findings. Initial results indicate that the students surveyed largely want to learn about how culture may affect the lawyering process, generally are aware that culture may affect client behaviors, but may be less aware of the effect culture has on their own perceptions and behaviors. They also indicate that simply taking a survey such as the one described herein has an educational benefit. We discuss the implications of those findings for law teaching. While the work described herein was done in the United States, we believe the issue transcends national borders and we hope this article provokes discussion across borders about the need to develop law students’ abilities to work effectively amongst countries’ own diverse populations as well as transnationally.
Keywords: law, lawyers, legal education, education, empirical legal studies, survey, lawyering process, cultural competence, cultural sensitivity, attorney-client relationships, law teaching, law faculty
JEL Classification: I29, K00, K40, K49, Z00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation