Center for Law and Ethics Curriculum


As part of orientation, students learn about the structure of tort law, including viewing the movie, A Civil Action. The Center has prepared materials to assist the professors in exploring various ethical issues in that movie—from whether the attorneys had the necessary resources to undertake the litigation (and if not, then who would?) to whether the attorneys communicated adequately with their clients and respected their clients’ autonomy (including, for example, regarding whether to settle).

Beginning with the Fall 2011 semester, two panel discussions will be added. One is on Finding and Maintaining Balance and the other addresses Becoming a Professional. Both panels are being organized and facilitated by USF Law faculty.

Required Courses

Legal Ethics and the Practice of Law (3 units)

A review of the ethical principles behind the basic California and ABA rules through a discussion of actual practice problems. Ethical principles are introduced through these problems as they actually occur in practice as real-world ethical dilemmas. This course, usually offered in a seminar format, also emphasizes the practical and economic realities that can affect a lawyer's behavior, the tensions between traditional notions of ethical behavior, and society's larger sense of morality, and the conflict between the duty to advocate for the client and to act for the public good. Students may satisfy the ethics course requirement by completion of either Professional Responsibility or Legal Ethics and the Practice of Law.

Professional Responsibility (3 units)

A course examining the Rules of Professional Conduct, the roles and functions of lawyers in society, responsibilities involved in representing clients, and the organization and function of the bar. This course uses concrete problems drawn from real life practice contexts to illustrate in a practical way the complex moral dimensions of a lawyer’s professional life. Students may satisfy the ethics course requirement by completion of either Professional Responsibility or Legal Ethics & the Practice of Law.

Elective Courses

Complex Civil Litigation (3 Units)

A course in advanced civil procedure which focuses on procedural problems arising in multi-party and/or multi-forum cases, especially in "mass torts" such as asbestos, IUD, breast implant and tobacco cases, including class actions. The problems discussed include: the recent history of mass tort litigation; review of class actions and other devices for consolidated resolution of "common issue" cases in federal and state courts; a comparison of class actions in federal and state courts; problems of "nationwide" class actions; competing class actions; problems of federalism; discovery problems in complex cases; problems of aggregative determinations of damages; and court control of settlements and attorney fee awards.

Interpersonal Dynamics for Attorneys (3 units)

This course teaches skills and competencies essential to effective negotiating, client counseling, and working cooperatively with other lawyers (co-counsel, partners, and other associates). Objectives of the course include increasing student’s awareness of both how they have an impact on others and how others have an impact on them. By becoming more aware of their own, and others, reflexive reactions, students will be better equipped to exercise conscious control over the choices they make and the way they react to negotiations, conflicts, and other interpersonal interactions. Class attendance and participation in interactive exercises is essential.

Contemplative Lawyering (2 Units)

This class will expose students to contemplative practices derived from a variety of religious and secular (wisdom) traditions to help them develop lawyering skills that are essential in litigation and transactional practices, including interviewing, counseling, negotiating, problem-solving and advocacy. These lawyering skills require the personal capacity to focus without distraction; to respect and empathize with clients and colleagues; to listen and explain with open-mindedness and patience; to inject creativity into problem-solving; to facilitate productive communication among adversaries; to deal constructively with conflict; and to engage in honest and fearless self-critique. In order to develop these underlying abilities students will learn about and perform various contemplative practices and apply these practices to their own actual legal experiences (e.g. law school studies and externships/internships) in an iterative process. Development of these abilities will be supported by assigned readings, class discussions, writing assignments and regular contemplative practice. The ultimate goal of the class is to enable students to cultivate essential lawyering skills in a manner conducive to practicing law as thoughtful, grounded and moral people.