Ann Southworth and Catherine Fisk, Our Institutional Commitment to Teach about the Legal Profession, 1 UC Irvine L. Rev. 73 (2011).
This essay, which is part of a symposium on UC Irvine Law School’s innovations in legal education, describes the required, year-long, first-year course on the Legal Profession. Responding to a number of calls for improved law school instruction on the legal profession and professional ethics, the course offers students an empirically grounded understanding of actual practice realities and critical perspectives on those practices, drawn from history, sociology, philosophy, economics, and psychology. It situates issues of legal ethics and professionalism in broader contexts, including the history and social structure of the bar, the market for legal services, and the organizations of practice. It relies heavily on theoretical and empirical literature about the profession, as well as case studies, simulations, and commentary by guest speakers. We require our students to engage with issues of the profession from the very start of law school, and we pitch the course in terms that appeal to the students’ self-interest – as an effort to help them chart successful, rewarding, and responsible careers in law. This essay describes the premises, goals, circumstances of creation, and content of our Legal Profession course. We also assess the success of the course and identify continuing challenges.