INTRODUCTION TO PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY: HEROES AND VILLAINS
The section of Professional Responsibility taught by Professor Cunningham differs both from other sections of the course at GSU and generally from conventional approaches to teaching this subject in a number of ways. The course design has been developed by Professor Cunningham over the past 25 years through his experience at four different law schools in not only teaching the required upper level legal ethics course but also directing both civil and criminal clinics and teaching practical skills courses. In the last seven years the course design has also been influenced by lessons learned from the workshops of the National Institute for Teaching Ethics & Professionalism (NIFTEP), which is hosted by GSU and supported by the W. Lee Burge Chair in Law & Ethics held by Professor Cunningham.
- The course is designed around a series of exercises based on real cases which include role plays conducted during class in which students must apply the rules of professional conduct to simulated lawyer-client interactions. Students must prepare to provide realistic portrayals of a lawyer, or sometimes a client, in front of their fellow students. These role plays may be videotaped for analysis but the student's performance in a role play is never the basis for grading. In a student questionnaire filled out at the beginning of the semester, students who do not wish to be videotaped in a role play may request alternate class participation responsibilities.
- Through the class exercises, reading historical and biographical accounts, and use of a variety of documentary and cinematic materials, the course aspires to immerse students in the real life work of lawyers and thus to share in the excitement, intense satisfaction, and profound challenges of representing clients.
- Most classes will begin with an in-class quiz. Each student will be given a remote response device ("clicker') that must be brought to every class (and then returned at the end of the semester). The serial number of the device is matched to the student's name so that the "clicker" can be used to administer these graded quizzes. (Clickers will also be used extensively to facilitate class discussion.) Some quiz questions will simply test whether students did the assigned reading. Other quiz questions will be more demanding and will be similar to multiple choice questions found on the final exam for this course or on the MultiState Professional Responsibility Examination (passage of which is required for bar admission in Georgia and many other states). Quizzes may be closed book, open book, or a combination. Fact patterns for some quizzes may be assigned in advance on the syllabus.
- On the first day of class students will be assigned to a team or "firm", through a transparent selection process designed to produce diverse groups of teams. These teams will sit together for all classes. On quiz days, after individual responses are tallied through the response device system ("clickers"), for some questions the instructor will set aside time for team discussion after which individual students will be able to respond again, and the second answer will be counted along with the first. Studies of team-based-learning indicate that effectively functioning teams will usually outperform individual student scores. Other tasks will regularly be assigned for teamwork during class time. For more information on the application of team-based learning to teaching Professional Responsibility, see Reading 4 assigned for Class One (Glesner-Fines).
- The final course grade is calculated as follows:
- 30% final exam (closed book, multiple choice) (see "Examination" on Course Home Page for further details)
- 40% individual paper written mid-semester which analyzes how students playing the lawyer role in one or more of the simulation exercises applied the rules of professional conduct and exercised professional judgment. As is the case for many other College of Law courses where the grade is based in large part on papers or other writing assignments during the semester, these papers are not graded anonymously
- 30% as follows:
- Total number of in-class quiz questions answered correctly (including second responses after team discussions and the results of any successful team appeals)
- If a student is absent or arrives too late on a quiz day, the student will have a score of zero for that day, unless a make-up quiz is approved on a showing of good cause for absence (see "Attendance" on the Course Home Page for further details).
- The total quiz score will be adjusted by an evaluation of the student's performance as a firm member.
- Each state has its own rules of professional responsibility that govern the conduct of lawyers in that jurisdiction, typically based on either the 1983 Model Rules of Professional Conduct adopted by the American Bar Association or a more recent version of the Model Rules adopted by the ABA in 2002. (The 2002 Model Rules have been further amended by the ABA.) In this course, our primary source will be the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct promulgated by the Georgia Supreme Court in 2001 (and subsequently amended), primarily based on the 1983 ABA Model Rules but with some important provisions not found in any of the ABA versions. Where the Georgia Rules differ in significant ways from the most current ABA Model Rules, the ABA Model Rules on the same subjects will also be assigned and discussed in class.
- Although one objective of the course is that students learn the most important rules of professional conduct (the primary subject matter of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam), the course is not intended to be a bar review for the MPRE and not all the rules tested on the MPRE are covered in class. As explained further in Reading 3 assigned for Class One (Developing Professional Judgment), the course has a much more ambitious goal than bar examination preparation: to launch you on the road to a career in which clients seek you out and recommend you to others due to your:
- capacity for moral reasoning,
- demonstrated commitment to the values of the legal profession, and
- ability to advise and implement effectively difficult and critical decisions in ways that are informed by understanding of the client's perspective, knowledge of the rules of professional conduct, sophisticated reasoning, and professional responsibility