The Role Of Ethics In Legal Education Of Post-Soviet Countries

Christopher R. Kelley 1  and Julija Kiršienė 2
  • 1 University of Arkansas, School of Law (USA)
  • 2 Vytautas Magnus University, Faculty of Law (Lithuania) Contact information

Abstract

The neglect of lawyer ethics in legal education, including in continuing legal education for lawyers and judges, is an enduring Soviet legacy in post-Soviet countries. Partially because of this neglect, many people in post-soviet countries do not trust lawyers. Their mistrust often is for good reason—too many lawyers are unethical. Yet, unethical lawyers do more than alienate others and cast the legal profession in disrepute. Unethical lawyers waste resources by unnecessarily prolonging disputes and inflaming antagonisms by provoking unjustifiable confrontations. Worse, they corrupt the legal system by bribing judges, suborning perjury, and using other illegal means to achieve their ends. Thus, they contribute to an all-too-common failure in post-Soviet countries—the failure to achieve the rule of law.

The academic literature is replete with commentary about the place of ethics in legal education. Some argue that ethics instruction is unnecessary. They claim that allusions to ethics in other courses, the law school culture, and the ethics learned earlier in life is sufficient. Others posit that ethics are too important to omit from the law school curriculum. They often add, however, that legal ethics instruction in law school commonly involves little more than demanding that law students memorize rules or codes of conduct.

This article discusses whether the ethics education of future lawyers in post-Soviet countries is adequate. Concluding that it is not, this article proposes suggestions for the content of an Eastern European legal ethics course and methods for teaching law students to internalize ethical norms as a part of their legal education.

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