Keynote, CELTS conference: Melissa Hardee

by Paul Maharg on 30/03/2009

Melissa Hardee started out by defining professionalism, then asking if we can teach professionalism.  She took a variety of definitions, coming down on a general definition of professionalism as being more than the sum of rules and regulation, and more than a matter of behaviour.

 She then described the situation in England and Wales, Australia, France and USA.  In the new LPC, the professionalism outcomes appear to be based only on professional conduct regulations.  In the context of what Melissa was talking about, I have to say that I found this odd (as did she) – as if the whole argument regarding Kohlbergian justice communities, let alone milder versions of moral & ethical argument raised by many legal scholars over the past thirty years, have never happened.  This is particularly true of the SRA's new work-based learning outcomes. 

The Report for the Law Society of England and Wales, Preparatory ethics training for future solicitors, authors Kim Economides & Justine Rogers ,was the focus of her presentation at this point.  She supported Economides & Rogers observations generally, quoting:

ethical competence is more than simply observable compliant behaviour according to some set of minimal prohibitions and standards of performance: it also includes dispositions that are affectively as well as cognitively based.

John Flood has blogged the report here [can't find the report on the web…].  Melissa supported the conclusions of Economides & Rogers.  She analysed briefly France & USA by comparison, and in more detail, Australia.  She showed how the Grad. Diploma in Legal Practice had outcomes on professional responsibility, but again, still largely complying with the rules of fiduciary duties, conflicts of interest and the like.  The jog around the jurisdictions, after the Economides & Rogers report, was rather depressing.  There are of course fascinating instances of innovative practice on professionalism in the States (eg see here and here), but most are still counter-cultural. 

She also referred to the ways in which professional conduct is maintained by the medical professions in England & Wales.  Referring to the Bar, she raised eyebrows by declaring that professionalism training tended to be better in quality in Bar courses in England and Wales than solicitor-training courses.  She identified role models, clinical education, implicit values, feedback on performance and reward, all of which are used in medical education. 

She ended with the questions that will form the core of the discussions in small groups later in the morning, and which are on our conference wiki.  Fine keynote that got the conference started well.  Let's hope the small group sessions bring back interesting material to the plenary.

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