Workshop on legal ethics, pm

by Paul Maharg on 29/10/2011

Afternoon session consisted of a workshop by Graham Ferris and Jane Jarman on addressing pluralism and the discourse it leads to; and yours truly, on ‘The Standardized Client Initiative (SCI): a portrait of the outsider as teacher’ — slides at Slideshare, or on the Slides page here.   The title refers to one of the many fascinating paradoxes about SCs when they’re used to assess performance.  High-stakes assessment is seen as the core of academic staff competence, where we assess student knowledge and skills; but in using SCs to assess students, what we do is hand over to non-staff, above all to people who are not legally trained, that really important duty.  In my session I explained why we might want to do that, how we trained SCs, some of the research underpinning the method, and the implications of the method for legal education.  I think the implications are pretty profound.  There were some perceptive questions about the status of QAA, the place of regulators, the ways in which the SCI might be used in undergraduate education.

There was a final plenary in which the two speakers summarised their respective workshops; then Nigel and Clark showed how NIFTEP were hosting workshops on teaching & learning legal ethics and innovative ways of doing this; and discussion of the way forward in the UK. I had to leave early to catch a plane, so couldn’t hear it all — but anyone who was there, please fill us in by blogging it, or commenting on this post.

Great workshop, and kudos to Nigel and Clark for putting it together and hosting it so well. In so many ways it was subversive of conventional law school practices, regulatory practices and legal practice, as real ethical inquiry and ethical behaviour ought to be. But it also was hugely positive, and showed just how exciting and effective teaching, learning and assessment can be that focus on experiential learning. On the way home I was stopped at airport security. There’s always something, the metal detector gets alarmed, my brogues attract attention, possibly just the look I wear going through it all (excuse me sir take off that look so we can put it through the machine). This time my iPad keyboard had to go through at least twice. It was in its case, and from its profile on the screen security staff apparently suspected it was a concealed cattle prod. Somehow it seemed like a good metaphor for the workshop: no, it’s not an instrument for inflicting pain & punishment, it’s a device for communicating, as I’m doing now, and better stop before I miss the plane.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Nigel Duncan October 30, 2011 at 14:58

Thanks to Paul for his blogs on our workshop. I thought I’d add a brief comment on the parallel afternoon workshop conducted by Graham Ferris and Jane Jarman of Nottingham Law School which Paul missed. They work on undergraduate and CPD programmes respectively but had found each other using similar materials and methods. Their workshop involved we participants role-playing their students while they challenged us with a series of ethical dilemmas, including the classics: runaway trolley car and the points; the runaway trolley-car and the large man on the bridge, some new ones uncomfortably reminiscent of recent events in the news, but, importantly, leading into dilemmas that anyone can imagine facing. They demanded responses from us and stimulated a passionate discussion which was also thoughtful, led to explanations of theoretical underpinnings and modeled mutual respect and tolerance. One of their objects was to address pluralism and to demonstrate our capacity for disagreement combined with tolerance. We also explored the role of intuition in testing ethical systems such as utilitarianism and (although not formally identified by Graham and Jane) the value of reflection-in-action. In all of this it was a great success and Clark and I are very grateful.
The closing session, which Paul missed in order to play games with Heathrow security explored practical ways of setting up a continuing community of practice to take this forward. A lot of ideas were brainstormed and we will be taking this forward. If anyone reading this blog is interested in participating in developing our teaching of legal ethics, please contact me.

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