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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Legal Profession (Spring 2018)

  • Course Number: LAW-505
  • Class Number: 03042
  • Instructor: Bryant Danner

Course Description

In this three-unit course, we will be looking at the legal profession from two perspectives: a lawyer’s professional responsibilities and current developments that are having significant impacts on the profession. Our focus will be on how practicing attorneys deal with these matters when they arise in work with clients or other lawyers. Throughout the course, we will also consider situations illustrating the extent to which lawyers are engaged in both a profession and a business.

While covering the basic professional responsibility rules, the emphasis will be on how the rules apply to lawyers who are working for fee-paying clients in a solo practice or a law firm (large or small), or who are in-house lawyers in a business enterprise. [This course will discuss briefly some of the specific issues facing lawyers working for a government or in a public interest or criminal defense practice; but will not cover these issues in as much depth as they are covered in the Ethical Issues for Public Interest, Government and Criminal Lawyers course.]

We will give much attention to the ABA’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct and the guidance they would provide on professional responsibility issues frequently encountered in the practice.  Familiarity with the Model Rules is also important for purposes of the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam. Almost all states (with California as the most notable exception) have adopted the Model Rules with relatively minor variations. [Although California’s current rules and the Model Rules do not use the same format, the state is now considering changes to bring the rule formats into closer alignment. In any event, the substance of the California rules is generally consistent with the Model Rules – but with some significant differences regarding “confidentiality” and a few other topics. We will discuss these key differences.]

We will be emphasizing that the full scope of a lawyer’s responsibilities goes beyond the requirements described in the Model Rules or in the specific professional conduct rules adopted by the state in which you are practicing law. Additional dimensions of a lawyer’s responsibilities are defined in various aspects of agency law, corporate law, tort law, criminal law, constitutional law, and the rules of civil procedure and evidence.

In addition to an Examples & Explanations overview, the course materials will include the Rules (with accompanying Comments), Opinions issued by bar associations, judicial decisions, law review articles, and other commentaries and reports about the profession. Many of the current developments in the legal business are now being headlined in the press and internet sites that focus on the profession. One of the course objectives is to provide a context for evaluating the potential long-term significance of these current headline items.

Student participation in class discussions is an essential part of the course. We will talk about how lawyers and clients might deal with some specific and important issues, such as the factors involved in selecting a lawyer (or law firm) to handle a litigation or transaction, how to resolve a question about disclosure of client-confidential information, and how best to cope with the ethical and other issues presented when a lawyer is thinking about moving from one firm to another.

Grading for the course will be based on a combination of class participation and an in-class final exam with multiple-choice and essay questions.


Course Details

  • Unit Value: 3
  • Grading Options: Numerical Only
  • Schedule: T/Th 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm
  • Room Number: Room 3
  • Exam: In-class exam
  • Writing Requirement: No
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: no
  • Participation: Required and graded
  • Enrollment Limitation: 60 students