We are primarily concerned with the development of ethical awareness in law students. We aim to build on recent initiatives, eg the UK’s Legal Education Training Review 2013 and the recommendations of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtue’s 2014 research report ’Virtuous Character for the Practice of Law’, which identified a need for undergraduate law courses to include ethics-based education. In doing so, we hope to find ways to sustain and develop motivations relating to fairness and justice. We are especially concerned that such motivations should become embedded in professional life. This is a concern shared with other universities, especially in the US and Australia.
While we value the role of compliance systems and codes of conduct, we promote a broad-based approach to ethics encompassing deontology, consequentialism and virtue ethics. These approaches allow students to develop the kinds of ethical awareness that professional practice requires to balance commercial and organisational pressures. We believe that senior lawyers and the supervisors of trainee lawyers are crucial role models in promoting good ethical practice.
The ethics strand of the Centre on the Legal Profession is currently involved in introducing ethics to the undergraduate curriculum at Westminster University. Two members of the Centre, Lucy Floyd and Michael Holdsworth, are undertaking a research study involving first year undergraduate students, investigating how shared responses to ethical dilemmas can influence ethical decision making.