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Professionalism in Action Program

Michigan Law Students Explore Ethical Issues During Professionalism in Action Program

By Lori Atherton
Jan. 29, 2014

What are a lawyer's duties to the public and profession? Does being a successful litigator require the attorney to be uncivil or combative? If a lawyer takes less time performing legal work for a client than originally anticipated, should he charge the client less than the amount of money on which they agreed?

These ethical questions were posed to Michigan Law 1Ls during the Professionalism in Action Program held Jan. 24. Now in its second year, the program is a partnership between the Law School and the State Bar of Michigan, and aims to help first-year students develop an understanding of the importance of ethics, professionalism, and civility in their legal careers. The program complements other ethics-focused offerings at the Law School, including courses, speaker's series, and the Commitment to Integrity ceremony.

"Students can't be introduced early enough to the idea of professional ethics and integrity," said David Baum, '89, assistant dean for student affairs and records at Michigan Law, and a program facilitator. "The more exposure students have to issues of ethics and professionalism, the better prepared they'll be to enter the practice of law."

During the program, groups of 18 to 20 students teamed up with practicing lawyers and judges from southeast Michigan for discussions on hypothetical issues related to the topics of ethics and professionalism. One of the lawyers was Allyn Kantor, '64, an adjunct professor at the Law School who teaches alternative dispute resolution. He participated for a second year because he believes it's important for law students to understand "that lessons of morality and ethics play a large role in the choices they'll make in their profession."

The feedback from students was largely positive, Prof. Kantor noted, which "reaffirmed for [him] that students acknowledge that the values of ethics and integrity are important."

The State Bar of Michigan first offered the Professionalism in Action Program in 2009. The idea was developed by Michigan Law alumnus Edward Pappas, '73, chair and partner of Dickinson Wright PLLC and former president of the State Bar of Michigan.

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