Legal Ethics Teaching: Use an Applied Ethicist

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished Conference Paperpeer-review


Ellen Klein argued that “the one necessary condition for a successful business ethics course” is the “teacher must be a philosopher” (1998). She argues that ethics requires specific expertise and philosophers have training in logic necessary for such teaching. Ethicists are, therefore, best placed to provide ethics training. Whilst there is merit in aspects of this argument, discipline ‘purity’ is problematic (Frederick, 1998). Any applied ethics is and should be an interdisciplinary undertaking (Frederick, 1998).
I argue that legal ethics, particularly at undergraduate level, should involve the expertise and teaching of someone outside traditional legal education and certainly beyond those working/who have worked as solicitors or barristers; most appropriately, legal ethics education should involve an applied ethicist. First, applied ethicists, or joint teaching with legal academics and/or legal professionals, will enhance student learning by preparing them for the critical thinking required for ethical decision making in legal situations. Second, ethics is not simply ‘conduct competence’ and therefore should not be reduced to black and white rules nor questions that can be answered without explanation (Webb, 2000). Involving an applied ethicist will ensure learning beyond official codes of conduct. Third, the Solicitors Regulation Authority says that “ethics and professional conduct will be examined pervasively” throughout the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SRA, 2017). That may address some issues related to the simple teaching of ‘conduct competence’. However, legal ethics at undergraduate level should encompass areas of social justice, CSR and larger environmental concerns. These topics would benefit from a considered, interdisciplinary approach to include the expertise of applied ethicists.
Training to a code of conduct is not enough to enable would-be practitioners to effectively navigate ‘wicked’ problems of the future. Hence, successful legal ethics education should include an applied ethicist to ensure the best possible ethical foundations for future practitioners.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 3 Sept 2021
EventSociety of Legal Scholars Annual Conference 2021 - Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom
Duration: 31 Aug 20213 Sept 2021


ConferenceSociety of Legal Scholars Annual Conference 2021
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Legal Ethics Teaching: Use an Applied Ethicist'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this