Friday, November 5, 2010

Legal ethics test looms big for U of L law students

the law library
A friend who attended medical school at U of L once told me that he liked to study at the law school's library for two reasons: there were lots of interesting books on the shelves, and it was quiet because law students rarely used the place. In some respects, my friend's reasoning makes sense. The demands of law school come in waves, separated by long periods of time when the only real obligation is to show up for class. It is possible, at least in theory, to abandon reading for the entire semester, surf the Internet during class, and then ace your courses by using commercial outlines to study like crazy just before finals. I don't know too many students who take this approach and still succeed. However, at least compared to last year, many 2Ls have shifted their priorities. In a way it's hard to blame them. The educational model for most American law schools places little emphasis on class participation or on regular writing assignments outside of final exams. This is maddening. But it's also a trap. I try to pay close attention to the habits of the most successful students, and almost without exception they keep their noses to the grindstone, read every assigned page, and take exhaustive notes. Most of them also use outside study aids, but only as a supplement. 

At this point, you may be wondering if this train of thought has a caboose. Here it is: a large number of upper-level students, myself included, will take take their final exam in Professional Responsibility this afternoon. We've been cramming for a week or longer, and many of us are now mumbling about legal ethics rules at traffic lights, in the restroom, and in our sleep. If you ask us whether a lawyer must disclose his client's confidential plans to kill the mayor, we could tell you that the answer is probably no (the rule for disclosure is permissive, not mandatory). If you want to know about legal advertising, we could tell you that direct mail is generally OK, but that in-person solicitation is not (except if the client is a lawyer or family member). And tomorrow, less than 24 hours after the class final, we'll get a second dose of ethics when we take the Multi-State Professional Responsibility Exam, or MPRE. A passing score is required in order to practice law, and a test on ethics is not the kind of thing you want to take twice. In summary, the wave is about to hit the beach. If you are a medical student, you might stay away from the library. 

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