St. Mary's University School of Law
Aristotle spoke of virtue and ethics as a combination of practical wisdom and habituation—an individual must learn from the application of critical reasoning skills to experience. Perhaps one of the earliest proclamations of the value of experiential learning, the Aristotelian view, reappears throughout history and is captured once again by the Carnegie Foundation’s Report on Legal Education, which includes a call for instruction that provides practical skills and ethical grounding to complement the teaching of legal analysis. The Carnegie Report continues to play a role in the ongoing discussion of the need to reform legal education; a debate that is currently driven by market demand and a legal profession in the midst of dramatic realignment. This debate has given rise to suggestions for reform in the areas of legal ethics and professional identity that are supported by reference to theories of moral psychology, cognitive psychology, and various innovative educational strategies. Mindful Ethics is an innovative approach to teaching legal ethics; the short-term goal is to better prepare law students to deal with the reality of practice, to assist in the development of their professional identity, and to provide lawyers with additional tools for responding to the ethical challenges inherent in the practice of law. The long term, overarching goal is to impact the manner in which the legal profession functions and plays its critical role in society as protectorate of the rule of law. This Article will discuss the methodology by which Mindful Ethics integrates professional responsibility and mindfulness such that lawyers and law students gain a broader insight into their own ethical decision-making. It will also explore recent neuroscience findings concerning the influences of mindfulness practices on the brain. Finally, it will conclude that Mindful Ethics serves as both a life skill and a tool for legal practice that has the potential to dramatically assist one in anticipating and avoiding the ethical pitfalls of legal practice and maintaining civility and professionalism, especially in light of the increasing pace of the practice owing to rapidly evolving technologies. Indeed, Mindful Ethics may provide an individual with the ability to “entertain a thought without accepting it” and to modulate and channel emotions in a civil manner towards a productive outcome.
Jan L. Jacobowitz & Scott Rogers,
Mindful Ethics-A Pedagogical and Practical Approach to Teaching Legal Ethics, Developing Professional Identity, and Encouraging Civility,
St. Mary's Journal on Legal Malpractice & Ethics
Available at: https://commons.stmarytx.edu/lmej/vol4/iss1/5