Legal ethics, rules of conduct and the moral compass – Considerations from a law student's perspective
When young law graduates enter the legal profession they will undoubtedly be exposed to difficult situations that will demand of them to make difficult decisions, often having to balance conflicting systems of belief and ideas on what ethical behaviour entails. Legal ethics training in law faculties the world over often neglects teaching aspects of morality to focus on reviews of rules of professional legal conduct. This article argues that if legal education is to adequately prepare law graduates for legal practice, it must offer more than reviews of these codes of conduct. To properly assist law students in avoiding pitfalls which may lead to disciplinary action, they must be taught to appropriately use their moral compasses.
This narrative aims to show that the metaphorical moral compass, with the cardinal virtues as possible main points, may serve as the crucial and underlying guide in the avoidance of the pitfalls which may result in a person being struck from the roll, but more than that, that it may aid in the pursuit of personal dreams or goals. The article contributes to the literature on legal ethics by foregrounding the virtues that pertain to sound conduct in a lawyer, as opposed to the rules and codes, in the hope that this may help legal practitioners to decide on what is right and what is wrong.
Keywords: Legal ethics; morality; law students; professional conduct; moral compass; legal education
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