Law Deans Issue Joint Statement on the 2020 Election and Events at the Capitol

Today, a diverse group of law deans issued a statement reaffirming our profession’s integral role in advancing and protecting the rule of law. The full statement is below and linked here with a growing list of the deans who signed.

As we begin our spring semesters amid this upheaval and assault to democracy, I find it helpful to reflect upon how we teach students to absorb the weight and responsibility of membership in this profession. A few years ago, Carolyn Kaas, Paula Schaefer and I presented on the topic of “Lawyer as Public Citizen” and shared a number of ways to incorporate teaching this particular aspect of professional role assumption across the curriculum. We asked, fundamentally, how to teach students to look beyond public service and pro bono work as silos, and to absorb the profound responsibility to uphold the rule of law and to serve in ways that educate and encourage the public to partake in democratic endeavors.

We asked:

The preamble to the ABA Model Rules includes a calling to the lawyer as “public citizen,” but what does that mean? In what ways are all lawyers required to perform in the public citizen role after graduation, and how can we prepare them for it?  How do proficiencies associated with the lawyer’s responsibility as a public citizen become a more explicit outcome of legal training? 

We came up with lists of activities and topics; members of the audience met in small groups to discuss how their teaching did or did not address the role of lawyer as public citizen. But the message was clear: we need to look beyond the particular topics we teach and engage students in accepting deep responsibility for this work regardless of their eventual professional roles in the legal system.

For further reading, Chapter 6 of Building on Best Practices includes a number of essays on the pedagogy of professional role assumption.

Please let us know how you are including talks, exercises, and space for reflection as return to the semester.


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