The ethical identity of law students

Richard Moorhead*, Catrina Denvir, Rachel Cahill-O’Callaghan, Maryam Kouchaki, Stephen Galoob

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

This paper uses measures of values, moral outlook and professional identity to explore the ethical and professional identity of law students. We do so in two jurisdictions, surveying 441 students studying in England and Wales and 569 students studying in the US. The survey covers the first and final years of an undergraduate law degree and the postgraduate vocational stage in England and Wales, as well as students in all years of the JD programme in the US. We explore whether law students towards the end of their legal education have ethical identities predictive of less ethical conduct than those at the beginning of their legal education; whether law students intending careers in business law have values and profiles consistent with less ethical conduct than those intending to work for government or individuals; and what factors might explain these differences in ethical outlook. Our findings suggest that ethical identity is strongly associated with gender and career intentions. They also suggest weaker moral identities for students intending to practise business law. Ultimately, our findings support a conclusion that is more nuanced than the predominant theses about the impact of legal education on student ethicality which tend to suggest legal education diminishes ethicality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-275
Number of pages41
JournalInternational Journal of the Legal Profession
Volume23
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Law

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