Ultra Vires


Seven Problems with Ethics Week

The grumblings about Ethics Week began almost as soon as we found out about it. The general sentiment was that it seemed kind of boring and useless and that the evaluation didn’t really make sense. And also that there were so many readings.

Maybe it was something about having low expectations, but I actually did like some aspects of the week. Highlights included Eddie Greenspan denouncing the theme of his panel, “Civility,” in a passionate rant, and one of the corporate guys from Osler declaring: “Greed isn’t a crime, I’m pretty sure!”  Most of the panels were interesting, if only for showing us a slice of what that field of law is like and for getting exposure to the high-caliber lawyers who are leaders in their field (and who seem to really like their jobs).

However, there were at least 7 problems with Ethics Week:

1. The sessions were too long. I think it was a great idea to have a variety of different panels come in and approach ethical issues from their field. However, by the end of most sessions the lawyers were tiredly going through the fact patterns and giving the same answers, e.g. “get your own counsel.” Instead of attempting 3-4 problems, it would be prudent to stick to 1-2.

2. The timing of the tour was terrible. This is more of a personal axe I have to grind, but the tour was one of the few parts of Ethics Week I had actually looked forward to. By the end of the day Wednesday, I was so burnt out I didn’t want to expend the energy to go down to the courts. Why couldn’t we have done this first thing in the morning? Or on a different day? Tacking it on at the end of the last day was a mistake. [Ed: the tour was first thing Monday morning in 2010.]

3. There were discrepancies in the requirements between legal process classes. Each section’s professor told their class different things about the week and how they were going to be evaluated. One section was told they were only going to be evaluated on one panel, and subsequently didn’t show up to the other sessions. This undermined the whole week and caused resentment among those who diligently showed up for everything.

4. The week was not incentivized properly. Why are we being evaluated on this material by professors who are not teaching it? If the Faculty wants ethics to be a part of legal process, our professors should teach it to us in class. This issue definitely contributed to the problem of discrepancies between classes. Also, there were 273 pages of readings. On the first day alone. When there is almost no hope of getting through that many pages (and congrats to those 3-5 people who did), people won’t do it (and didn’t).

5. What was with that last session? I attended the last session thinking someone would nicely tie together all the things we “learned” over the wek. Instead, we re-hashed the discussions that had literally just happened in the small groups. This was potentially the most flagrant waste of our time all week, and that’s saying something.

6. Lunch was really bad. We got free lunch on Wednesday, presumably as an incentive to show up on the last day.  However, my smoked turkey sandwich was barely edible, and left me yearning for the good old days of generic pizza lunches. I’m not some diva who’s expecting an inventive spread from Whole Foods (although that would be nice…), but this lunch was an almost laughable waste of money. [Ed: there will be MANY more pizza lunches.]

7. Why are we even doing this in 1L? It’s November now, which means I’ve had roughly 2 months of legal education. In what way is this an ideal time to learn about legal ethics? The panelists kept prefacing their questions with “I know you don’t know much about this field yet, so use your gut reaction to respond…” It would be beneficial to do this later on in our legal education, when we could contribute to discussions using our personal experience or stuff we’ve learned in class. Furthermore, most 1Ls are still figuring out how to study/learn/what the hell is going on and could really use this week in November to start preparing for exams/catch up on work/take a mental health break/I could go on forever.

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