Building Capacity to Cope with Ethical Dilemmas in Legal Practice Through Teaching ‘Giving Voice to Values’ Techniques (Presentation Slides)

VI International Legal Ethics Conference, London, 10-12 July 2014

12 Pages Posted: 3 Jun 2016

See all articles by Liz Curran

Liz Curran

Nottingham Trent University; ANU College of Law

Date Written: July 11, 2014


This panel presentation will be a basic introduction for a more detailed session on Saturday with Viv Holmes, Anneka Ferguson (in absencia) which will discuss the theory, practice, research and student responses that informs our courses.

In the context of Recommendations 6 and 7 Critical issues and challenges are presented. How can teachers challenge students to explore ethical dilemmas emerging in all area of practice be they commercial, property, consumer and civil law? How can we as teachers not just teach students to identify ethical issues but also assist them in building the tools necessary to actively and appropriately deal with such dilemmas?

In the ANU Legal Workshop (delivered in a blended mode with face to face and on-line teaching) the professional legal training course for graduates to become admitted to legal practice, we use Mary Gentile’s ‘Giving Voice to Values’ (GVV) approach. This will be briefly explained.

I have taught ethics in an undergraduate context and am now teaching at graduate levels and see more opportunities using the GVV approach. In Legal Workshop’s Ethics subject and in a subject, ‘Professional Development’ (PM) that supports key practice areas, we use GVV to engage students at a deeper level so they learn about themselves and their working environment. The key GVV approach is to equip students with not only the ability to identify an ethical problems but also strategies to enable them to act on their ethical duties.

Our aim is to build the students’ resilience, build their capacity to act ethically and speak up appropriately and wisely.

During my section of the panel presentation, I will ask the audience to participate by doing the first exercise students undertake- a Professional Development Journal Entry. This activity is based on GVV’s ‘Tale of Two Stories’ and requires students to recall and then reflect on a time in their lives when they have, and have not, ‘spoken’ their values. The activity is a useful lead-in to tackling ethical issues in legal workplace scenarios as the course progresses (tomorrow’s session). This activity starts the reflective practice conversation and flags issues that emerging lawyers face in responding ethically. In student debriefs some of our students (many of whom work in legal practice as para-legals, judges associates, waitressing, marketing and fact food outlets etc.) indicate they already often encounter unethical practice and that examining the reasons why they speak or do not speak out is useful for the later exercises. The discussion also has scope for teachers to share their experiences, values and ethical dilemmas and how they did or not deal with them. In the follow-up session on Saturday we will explore how the GVV approach enables students to develop and practise skill for acting ethically. It is suggested a similar activity could be used in undergraduate level to start reflective practice and the values and ethics discussion with students earlier.

Keywords: Giving Voice to Values; Ethics; Professional Ethics; Practical Legal Education; Engaging Students in Informed decision-making; Professional Legal Identity; Practitioner Integrity

Suggested Citation

Curran, Elizabeth, Building Capacity to Cope with Ethical Dilemmas in Legal Practice Through Teaching ‘Giving Voice to Values’ Techniques (Presentation Slides) (July 11, 2014). VI International Legal Ethics Conference, London, 10-12 July 2014, Available at SSRN: or

Elizabeth Curran (Contact Author)

Nottingham Trent University ( email )

Belgrave Centre
Chaucer Street
Nottingham, NG1 5LP
United Kingdom

ANU College of Law ( email )

Melbourne based
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

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