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28 Washington University Journal of Law and Policy 141 (2008)


In a work world where injustice and corruption challenge lawyers daily, how might law schools better prepare students to become ethical leaders, or, at least, to practice ethically themselves? This article asserts that adding short interactive roleplays to large classes is one way for students to learn the skill and value of doing the right thing under difficult circumstances. The authors build on their experience teaching in Moldova, where they found students eager to engage in realistic roleplays, so eager that they transformed a lawyer-client interviewing exercise into an exploration of what to do when offered a bribe. If U.S. law schools' signature pedagogy is the case dialogue method, and if that method is well designed to teach legal analysis and doctrine, need law schools teach more than that during the first year? After a brief examination of research and commentary on legal education, including the Carnegie Foundation Report and Best Practices in Legal Education, the article argues that classroom support of the formation of responsible professional identities should begin in the first year. One straightforward way to assist with that is to incorporate roleplays into existing classes. Adding roleplays to large first-year classes may serve a variety of purposes. Acting out real world scenarios can facilitate students' learning doctrinal law as they work with it in context. When asked in a roleplay to grapple with issues that implicate their own or the profession's values, students test their own values and practice the exercise of judgment. Roleplaying also may help students find their voices as lawyers, to see and value the ideals, knowledge and skills they already bring to the work. After discussing the benefits of short roleplays, the article lays out specific steps for creating and implementing them in first year classes. Several sample scenarios are included for experimentation. The article closes by urging first-year teachers to try roleplays as a small but robust step toward training lawyers who will act responsibly.


This article is co-authored by Angela McCaffrey