CourseProfessionalism in the Practice of Law - Law 696U
Instructor Thomas A. Zlaket   View Faculty Page
Units 2 - Pass/Fail


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Lawyers are professionals.  This is a course about professionalism in the practice of law, and how attorneys can develop and maintain it in the face of today’s pressures, including increased competition.  It is not a course in the formal rules of professional responsibility, although there is considerable overlap involving ethics and professionalism.  This overlap will be explored, along with the enduring core values essential to the legal profession. 


This course also serves as a way to prepare students for the transition from law school to law practice, by attempting to address some of the real-life situations that will likely face new attorneys.  It has been suggested by past students that the course should be subtitled “What they never told me in my other law school classes.” 


The course will address, among other things, professionalism issues that arise in the context of the lawyer's relationships with clients, judges, opposing counsel, co-counsel, the public, court staff, and support staff.  Guest speakers from the legal profession and the judicial branch will be invited from time to time to address the class. 


A sampling of the subjects to be covered includes:


Professionalism vs. Ethics

The overlap

The distinctions


Civility and courtesy vs. strategy and tactics

The tensions

The meaning and role of advocacy

The purging of "zealous advocacy"

Discovery abuse and other unhappy practices


Core values of the profession

Competence in an increasingly complex field








Lying by lawyers

Its causes

Its consequences



Traditional roles of the lawyer





Officer of the Court


Public Perception

Its origins



Professionalism vs. money

Are they mutually exclusive?

Pro bono service


Transactional lawyers vs. litigators

Different standards?

Different behaviors?


Costs of unprofessionalism

To the profession

To the justice system

To the public

To the client

To civilized society

To the individual lawyer



Text and materials compiled by professor, including law review and journal articles on professionalism.

Course Format

Lecture and discussion. This course will require attendance at each class and active student participation. The class will involve extensive use of hypotheticals raising the subjects mentioned in the course overview.

Written Assignments


Type of Exam


Basis for grading

Class participation and paper.

Additional Comments  
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