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Law School Expands Innovative Ethics Program

Michael Josephson

Contrary to popular wisdom, it is possible to be a good lawyer and a good person. That’s the message that ethics expert Michael Josephson will bring to Drake Law School on Thursday, Jan. 25, when he addresses 140 first-year students about the vital importance of ethics in the legal profession.

Josephson, a former attorney and law, also will meet with small groups of law students Jan. 25-26 for role playing and analysis of ethical dilemmas they may face in law school and later in practice.

Drake is the only law school in the country that’s adopted Josephson’s CHARACTER COUNTS! program, a system of teaching ethics employed at schools and workplaces nationwide. Drake Law School has expanded its orientation for first-year students into a year-long program that emphasizes ethics and professionalism. The Drake initiative preceded the release of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s report on legal education, which last week called for a “solid ethical grounding” for students in their first year of law school.

The report, “Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law,” states that “In their all-consuming first year, students are told to set aside their desire for justice. They are warned not to let their moral concerns or compassion for the people in the cases they discuss cloud their legal analyses. . . . Students often find this confusing and disillusioning. The fact that moral concerns are reintroduced only haphazardly conveys a cynical impression of the law that is rarely intended.”

To remedy this, the report recommends that “The dramatic results of the first year of law school’s emphasis on well-honed skills of legal analysis should be matched by similarly strong skill in serving clients and a solid ethical grounding.”  The Drake Law School, with its historical balance of theory and practice, has long embraced the educational philosophy advocated by the Carnegie Report, and the Law School’s new ethics programming again puts Drake on the cutting edge of legal education.

Josephson will speak to the entire first-year class at 1 p.m. Jan. 25 in room 213 of Cartwright Hall.  This will be Josephson’s second speech at Drake Law School. He addressed the entire first-year class last January. Although his message was well-received by students, many wanted to engage in further dialogue, such as how to stand up to an unethical boss.  

This year’s programming has built in small group discussion sessions to enable students to grapple with these questions. Four members of the Drake law faculty, professors Lisa Penland, Maura Strassberg, Melissa Weresh and Ellen Yee, will co-teach four small group sessions with Josephson.

Josephson is founder and president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, which helps people make principled decisions and live with greater integrity. Based in Los Angeles and active nationally, the institute works with corporations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and schools, providing such services as confidential consultations, ethics audits, keynote addresses, seminars and customized trainings.