Volume 36

Legal Ethics Education: Seeking—and Creating—a Stronger Community of Practice

by Justine Rogers

This Article uses Community of Practice (“CoP”) frameworks and insights to examine legal ethics, a vital but challenging part of legal education and practice. CoP is a template to explain how the knowledge we learn is inseparable from the social situations in which it is “practiced” and how the processes through which we learn can be understood as a trajectory toward becoming competent knowers within a community. Increasingly, CoP also captures how communities might be initiated and sustained to advance that practice or expert domain. CoP theory illuminates the difficult conflicts both in teaching and in learning legal ethics, conflicts driven by the clash between “ethics-as-rules” and “ethics-as-judgment.” Using CoP ideas, this Article argues that legal ethics suffers from a confusing mission and an academic-professional community that is not as strong or interactive as it should be. But the CoP framework also offers possible solutions. This Article shares the author’s and others’ efforts to improve and align legal ethics. It also outlines what would be essential features for a vibrant community in stewardship of this domain. The Article focuses on the Australian context with close comparison to that of the United States.


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