Professional Competence

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National Institute for Teaching Ethics & Professionalism 2006 Workshop
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NIFTEP
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National Institute for Teaching Ethics & Professionalism Deputy Director, Tiffany Roberts twroberts@gsu.edu

NIFTEP conducts bi-annual workshops that bring together leading academics and practitioners involved teaching legal ethics and promoting professionalism. Workshops are cosponsored by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Professionalism.

2006 Workshop
December 15 - 17, 2006

Friday
3:30 - 5:30 p.m. Opening Session

Saturday
9:30-11:00 a.m. Session 1: Pilot Project for Professional Proficiency Testing
(see description below)
11:15-12:30 p.m. Session 2: Teaching Demonstration: The OPM Client Meeting Exercise
2:00-3:00 p.m. Session 3: The Practice of Law as a Business: Not a Bad Thing?
(see description below)
3:15-4:30 p.m. Session 4: Teaching Ethics and Professionalism as Part of a Course on Fundamentals of Law Practice
(see description below)

Sunday
8:15-10:00 a.m. Closing plenary
10:00-1200 p.m. Working group meetings

Session Descriptions

Pilot Project for Professional Proficiency Testing
The Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization is considering a pilot project to develop realistic, in-context proficiency examinations for practicing lawyers, with a particular focus on client communications, ethical decision making, and law practice management. The first application of such tests would be a new series of intensive and demanding CLE programs, perhaps specifically designed for in-house lawyers at large corporations; these lawyers would be at the 4-6 year point in practice, getting ready to handle major matters without supervision and to supervise others. This pilot is inspired by the example of the innovative Signet Accreditation program being launched in Scotland by the Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet, an independent membership organization for lawyers which is one of the oldest professional bodies in the world. More information on the Signet Accreditation program is available at: http://law.gsu.edu/Communication/Signet.htm Session 1 on Saturday was led by David Shearon, Executive Director of the Tennessee Commission on Continuing Legal Education and Specialization, and NIFTEP Director Clark Cunningham, who is serving as an academic consultant on the Signet Accreditation program.

The Practice of Law as a Business: Not a Bad Thing?
This session was led by Professor Timothy Mahoney, PhD, CPA, CFA, who teaches philosophy and business ethics at Providence College in Rhode Island. Professor Mahoney explored how models of good business practice might address some of the most pervasive problems of ethics and professionalism in the legal profession. He developed this theme during his session at the Inaugural NIFTEP Workshop in September 2005 and expanded it as a NIFTEP presenter at the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Conference on New Ideas for Law Teachers held in Vancouver in June 2006. He was joined by Steve Olson, Associate Director of the Southern Institute for Business & Professional Ethics at Georgia State University.

Teaching Ethics and Professionalism as Part of a Course on Fundamentals of Law Practice
One of many innovative ideas discussed at the 2005 Inaugural Workshop was to integrate the teaching of ethics and professionalism into a type of education urgently needed in the law school curriculum – a course on the fundamentals of law practice, especially in the context of setting up and managing a small or solo law firm. This topic garnered considerable discussion at the NIFTEP session at the AALS Conference on New Ideas for Law Teachers and also has connections with enhanced bridge-the-gap and mentoring programs for new lawyers (see. e.g. http://www.gabar.org/programs/transition_into_law_practice_program/) and alternate routes to licensing such as the Webster Scholars program being piloted in New Hampshire (see http://law.gsu.edu/ccunningham/PDF/BarExaminer-Nov05-Cunningham.pdf )

These three topics were selected for the 2006 NIFTEP Workshop because they are timely, they provide common ground for discussion among academics and the practicing bar, and they all represent “out of the box” thinking about ways to promote ethics and professionalism.

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