Law 312 - Professional Responsibility
Scott L. Cummings
Professor of Law
J.D. Harvard, 1996
This course provides an introduction to the law of professional responsibility. The central goal is to understand how the rules of professional conduct guide lawyer conduct and shape the legal profession. Toward that end, we will begin by examining the lawyer’s key duties to clients in distinct contexts, paying attention to differences based on what lawyers do (advocacy, advising), where they work (law firms, corporate legal departments, government legal offices, public interest organizations, legal services groups), and what types of clients they represent (individuals, organizations). Drawing upon case materials and problems, our emphasis will be on how lawyers define and resolve ethical problems—while promoting their public duties—in the real world of practice. We will pay special attention to the two foundational rules of professional responsibility—client confidentiality and conflicts of interests—and will consider how market changes and demographic shifts impact the lawyer’s role. This will lead to our second major emphasis, which is on the relation between the professional rules and the distribution of legal services. Here, we will focus on how the rules affect the ways that lawyers are allowed to find and represent clients, and how those same rules affect access to justice for persons of limited means. In doing so, we will consider the effectiveness of different mechanisms of regulatory control and their relation to patterns of professional stratification and exclusion. Overall, the course is designed to help you think critically about the challenges you will face in the profession you are about enter—and how you can best meet them in the pursuit of your professional goals.