Heard that you were talking sh*t and you didn’t think that we would hear it…

Okay so maybe not necessarily talking shit, and maybe no real connection to Gwen Stefani or Hollaback Girls …am I aging myself with that lyrical reference?…Work with me here folks.

The law school community was less than thrilled with UT Law students’ disdain for the Professionalism and Ethics training. A little bird overheard some Osgoode professors and admin staff complaining about UT law students’ disdain for P&E training. Complaints were heard that law students simply don’t care about P&E, and that UT Law as a faculty was not taking enough of an initiative with this training.

It’s an incorrect and sweeping statement to say students don’t care about P&E. We do. What we don’t care for are the efforts taken to teach us P&E. Or lack thereof. See the difference? The problem lies not with students and their opinions but with the administration and their lackluster efforts. It’s hard to not care about P&E in a profession that is historically founded on precisely those two qualities. Yet not caring is made easy when students are made to passively sit through lectures absent real engagement with the topic at hand.

The problem is that the law school community is placing the blame on students and their lack of interest when the fault lies with them and the lax requirements for P&E training. Yes, LSUC requires law schools to provide some sort of ethics training, but it gives quite a bit of discretion to the respective law school administrators about how this training will be provided.

Evidence of this discretion is seen by the fact that last year UT Law students had an entire week devoted to ethics, while this year students have two days (Ed. Note: Last year, our “week” was actually just three days – Mon-Weds). This is not to say that the number of days should be increased, or that a greater number of days leads to better training (i.e. two days is doable and preferable, many would agree). The issue is in the quality of the training. On the other hand, Osgoode has a class that’s devoted solely to Ethics, which is arguably more effective than our varied LPPE classes and ethics days combined.

However, I believe a credited class is not the way to go, especially since grading the class may have a tendency to force students to work for the grade and fail to absorb the core values of P&E (which is the whole point of the training).

Basically, don’t make it longer, don’t make it a credited course, and don’t make people sit through lectures. Got it…so what should/could be done? As ineffective as the current model of P&E training at UofT is, two days is an adequate amount of time to sow the seeds for a life full of P&E. As for substance? Some tweaking is needed. Engage the students. Have more small group discussions and workshops. Bring in real life situations of ethical issues rather than working with just hypotheticals. Proactive learning. A stimulating environment. Or something.

Bottom line: practice what you preach. If you want the students to care about the training, you have to show you care too.