Module SXL-1117:
Introduction to Legal Ethics

Module Facts

Run by School of Law

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1 & 2

Organiser: Dr John Olsson

Overall aims and purpose

In 2010 the Law Society recognised a lack of awareness of legal ethics, from an introductory level, as one of the skills gaps amongst law students. This module responds to these criticisms by facilitating study of the philosophical and jurisprudential relationship(s) between ethics, morality and the law; the values underpinning the legal system; and the regulation of the legal profession, via the legal ethics codes. This module is an introductory study of the professional and wider social duties lawyers owe to the Courts, their clients and the wider public.

The aim of the module is to stimulate students to reflect upon the nature of legal ethics and to play an active role in the formation of professional ethics. This is achieved by equipping students with the introductory knowledge and understanding of what it means for lawyers to ‘behave ethically.’

By the end of this module, students will be able to recognise, debate and resolve ethical dilemmas, and demonstrate an awareness of potential ethical issues arising in a legal context.

Course content

This module introduces students to the philosophical origins of legal ethics, as well as equips them with the knowledge to explain the relationship between ‘ethics’, ‘morality’ and ‘law’.

Students will be expected to identify the values underpinning the legal systems of England and Wales, analyse and appraise the legal professions’ ethics codes; debate ethical issues; and consider the wider duties lawyers have to the Court, their clients, and the public.

In the first semester, students will consider the wider jurisprudential questions of ethics, morality, and law; as well as ethics systems and the administration of justice: democratic values, for example equality and freedom, natural justice; the rule of law; independence of the judiciary, lawyers’ responsibilities for defending the rule of law and upholding the administration of justice.

In the second semester, students will explore the regulation of legal services, as well as professional principles, values and responsibilities. This will include analysis of the professional regulations, including the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Boards’ ethical principles and code of conduct. This includes the rules pertaining to duties lawyers owe to the Court and to the administration of justice. As well as the duties they owe to their clients, and the wider public. This will include practical ethical dilemmas and analysis of case studies where there are problems pertaining to confidentiality and conflicts of interest.

Assessment Criteria

good

To achieve an Upper Second Class (B) grade, the assessment must:

• Demonstrate strong knowledge and understanding of most of the area of law, including familiarity with relevant case law, legislation, academic debates and any recent or anticipated developments. Be able to identify most legal issues and apply relevant law.

• Demonstrate evidence of background study, using appropriate sources, including case law, legislation and academic commentary such as journal articles, law books and authoritative reports.

• Be well structured, including the coherent development of arguments and the use of an introduction and conclusion, and focussed on the question asked, including the ability to determine what is relevant and the omission of superfluous information/material.

• Contain coherently presented arguments, which are based on appropriate research and legal analysis.

• Be mostly free from substantive legal errors.

• Include some elements of original interpretation, including depth of analysis and the ability to present arguments based on sound legal reasoning.

• Be presented to high standards with accurate communication, including the use of language and grammar, layout of the text, footnote referencing, bibliography and adherence to the stipulated word limit.

A B+ grade:

• Exceeds expectations for some of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates command of the subject matter, but with some gaps in knowledge;

• Incorporates some original ideas or arguments.

A B grade:

• Meets all of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates strong factual knowledge and understanding;

• Ideas or arguments are well-presented but few are original.

A B- grade:

• Meets most but not all of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates strong factual knowledge with minor weaknesses in understanding;

• Most but not all of the ideas or arguments are well-presented and few are original.

excellent

To achieve a First Class (A) grade, the assessment must:

• Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge and detailed understanding of the area of law, including familiarity with relevant case law, legislation, academic debates and any recent or anticipated developments. Be able to identify all legal issues and apply relevant law.

• Demonstrate extensive background study as appropriate to the assessment method, using appropriate sources, including case law, legislation and academic commentary such as journal articles, law books and authoritative reports.

• Be well structured, including the coherent development of arguments and the use of an introduction and conclusion, and highly focussed on the question asked, including the ability to determine what is relevant and the omission of superfluous information/material.

• Contain logically presented and defended arguments, which are based on appropriate research and legal analysis.

• Be completely free from substantive legal errors.

• Include significant elements of original interpretation, including depth of analysis and the ability to present arguments based on sound legal reasoning.

• Be presented to very high standards with very accurate communication, including the use of language and grammar, layout of the text, footnote referencing, bibliography and adherence to the stipulated word limit.

An A* grade:

• Exceeds expectations for most of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates complete command of the subject matter;

• Incorporates highly original ideas or arguments.

An A+ grade:

• Exceeds expectations for some of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates complete command of the subject matter;

• Incorporates highly original ideas or arguments.

An A grade:

• Meets all of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates command of the subject matter, with only very minor gaps in knowledge;

• Incorporates mostly original ideas or arguments.

An A- grade:

• Meets most but not all of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates command of the subject matter, with some gaps in knowledge;

Incorporates mostly original ideas or arguments.

C- to C+

To achieve a Lower Second Class (C) grade, the assessment must:

• Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of key areas/principles in the area of law, including familiarity with the essential case law, legislation and academic debates in the area. Be able to identify the key legal issues and apply relevant law.

• Demonstrate some, if only limited, evidence of background study, using appropriate sources, including some relevant case law, legislation and academic commentary such as journal articles, law books and authoritative reports.

• Be focussed on the question asked, with only some irrelevant material and weaknesses in structure.

• Attempt to present some relevant and logical arguments.

• Not contain a large number of substantive legal errors.

• Be free of major weaknesses in presentation and accuracy, including the use of language and grammar, layout of the text, footnote referencing, bibliography and adherence to the stipulated word limit.

A C+ grade:

• Exceeds expectations for some of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates strong factual knowledge with some weaknesses in understanding;

• Ideas/arguments are limited but are well presented.

A C grade:

• Meets all of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates moderate factual knowledge with some weaknesses in understanding;

• Ideas or arguments are limited with weaknesses in logic/presentation.

A C- grade:

• Meets most but not all of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates moderate factual knowledge with some weaknesses in understanding;

• Ideas or arguments are limited with weaknesses in logic/presentation.

threshold

To achieve a Third Class (D) grade, the assessment must:

• Demonstrate a very basic knowledge and understanding of some of the key case law/legislation and principles in the area of law. Be able to identify some legal issues and apply relevant law.

• Demonstrate some, if only limited, evidence of background study, using appropriate case law and legislation.

• Attempt to present an answer on the question asked, with only some irrelevant material and weaknesses in structure.

• Attempt to present relevant and coherent arguments, which are based on appropriate legal analysis.

• Not contain a large number of substantive legal errors.

• Demonstrate an attempt to avoid major weaknesses in presentation and accuracy, albeit with some errors in referencing, spelling and grammar, or bibliography present.

A D+ grade:

• Exceeds expectations for some of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates moderate factual knowledge with some weaknesses in understanding;

• A few ideas/arguments are presented but with weaknesses in logic/presentation.

A D grade:

• Meets all of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates limited factual knowledge with several weaknesses in understanding;

• Very few ideas/arguments are presented.

A D- grade:

• Meets most but not all of the above criteria;

• Demonstrates limited factual knowledge with many weaknesses in understanding;

• Very few ideas/arguments are presented and with errors in logic/presentation.

Learning outcomes

  1. Apply knowledge of the legal ethics codes to understand a lawyers’ duty to the Court, their clients and the wider public.

  2. Plan, research and learn both independently, and as part of a small team (group work).

  3. Understand the context in which the legal professions’ ethics codes operate.

  4. Demonstrate a wider awareness of and commitment to legal values and the moral context of the law.

  5. Understand the practical applicability of the legal ethics codes to given scenarios.

  6. Understand the differences and relationship between ‘ethics’, ‘morality’ and ‘law’.

  7. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the relevant legal ethics considerations affecting the legal profession.

  8. Demonstrate knowledge as to the philosophical and jurisprudential origins of ethics, legal ethics, and justice.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Written assignment 25
Exam 75

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Hours
Seminar

22 x two hour seminars, delivered once a week (on campus)

44
Private study 156

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • Develop the ability to analyse complex legal issues, set against the background of the political, social, economic or cultural contexts in which they may arise
  • Develop those skills which are necessary for scholarship and research in legal subjects, namely the ability to identify relevant primary and secondary legal sources and to retrieve accurate legal information using paper and electronic sources

Resources

Resource implications for students

It should be noted that the majority of the material students need for this module is freely available on the internet via the Law Society, Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA), and Bar Standards Board (BSB) websites, for example the professional ethics codes, and the Bar Standards Board’s Handbook.

Reading list

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: