Legal Ethics and Justice

The details
Law (School of)
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 06 October 2022
Friday 30 June 2023
15 November 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module focuses questions of ethics and justice raised by legal practice. It is designed to provide students with the ethical frameworks necessary to equip them to provide legal services to community members as an adviser with the University of Essex Law Clinic, as well as to explore issues of access to justice raised by the sort of problems which lead people to seek out the help of the Clinic.

This module is run as part of the Law Clinic therefore students must be a member of the Law Clinic before they can choose it.

Module aims

The module aims:

1. To provide students with an introduction to the ethical issues which arise in law clinics and legal practice, the theoretical resources to resolve them and opportunities to explore how they should be resolved.
2. To provide students with an introduction to issues of access to justice which arise in law clinics and lgal practices designed to ensure services to those most in need.
3. To provide students with an appreciation of the ethical, social and political context in which legal services are provided.
4. To introduce students to the practice of reflection on experience in order to improve their performance and understanding of legal work.

5. To provide students with practice in arguing for particular positions on ethics and access to justice.

Module learning outcomes

On completion of this module the students should be able to:

1. Understand and critically evaluate the core ethical and professional principles governing the provision of legal services

2. Understand and critically evaluate the context in which these core ethical and professional principles governing the provision of legal services operate
3.. Engage in critical reflection on the performance of relevant legal and educational activities.

4. Confidently adopt and defend positions on legal ethics and access to justice.

Module information

Reflection on the ethics of the legal profession will involve looking at the most important ethical principles governing legal practice such as confidentiality and the avoidance of conflicts of interest and some of the most controversial debates such as whether lawyers should pursue immoral goals or use unethical means to achieve client goals, whether clients should be allowed to make 'irrational decisions' and whether lawyers owe duties to ensure equal access to justice. Related to this issue is the current position as regards access to justice and possible means of redressing current problems. The module will also consider strategies for putting values into action in the legal professional setting.

Learning and teaching methods

This module is taught through a mixture of pre-recorded lectures and 10 weekly 50-minute small group tutorials. Each week before your tutorials, the module teaching team will make available on Moodle two or more pre-recorded video lectures that they have prepared and produced. In total, the duration of each video lecture will be approximately 50 minutes. In most teaching weeks, you will be expected to have watched these lectures before the tutorials, although some of these lectures may be designed to be watched after the tutorials to recap on material discussed there. The module teaching team will also produce and make available on Moodle short guidance notes for each weekly tutorial. These notes will introduce the readings that must be completed in advance of each tutorial and will contain tips to help you understand and analyse those texts. You will be expected to have completed the readings in advance of your tutorials. Your tutorials will enable you to discuss the readings in the context of specific tutorial questions, to obtain feedback on your pre-class preparation and to deepen your understanding of key concepts.To help you prepare in the best possible way for your tutorials, you will be completing regular small assessed activities to enable you to reflect upon and track your progress, understand what you are doing well, and give you clear feedback to help you manage your studies and your progress.


  • Menkel-Meadow, C. ., The trouble with the adversary system in a postmodern. (no date) 'The Trouble with the Adversary System in a Postmodern, Multicultural World', in William and Mary Law Review,. vol. 38 (1) , pp.5-
  • Boon, Andrew. (2014) The ethics and conduct of lawyers in England and Wales, Oxford, United Kingdom: Hart Publishing.
  • (2016) Access to Justice : Beyond the Policies and Politics of Austerity: Hart Publishing.
  • Rowan, Eleanor; Vaughan, Steven. (2018-04-03) '“Fitting in” and “opting out”: exploring how law students self-select law firm employers', in The Law Teacher. vol. 52 (2) , pp.216-230
  • Paterson, Alan. (2012) Lawyers and the public good: democracy in action?, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. vol. 2010
  • Herring, Jonathan. (2017) Legal ethics, [Oxford]: Oxford University Press.
  • (no date) Lucy Logan Green and James Sandbach 'Justice in free fall: a report on the decline of civil legal aid in England and Wales' (Legal Action December 2016).
  • Herring, Jonathan. (2016) 'Defining vulnerability', in Vulnerable adults and the law, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Webb, Julian S. (1999) 'Ch 2 The Philosophical Context', in Professional Legal Ethics:Critical Interrogations, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Nicolson, Donald. (1998-) 'Calling, Character and Clinical Legal Education: A Cradle to Grave Approach to Inculcating a Love for Justice', in Legal ethics, Oxford, UK :: Hart Pub,. vol. 16 (1) , pp.36-56
  • Herring, Jonathan. (2016) Herring, J (2017) Vulnerable Adults and the Law (OUP) – Chapter 3 ('Vulnerable Adults and Capacity'), Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Sandbach, James; Grimes, Richard. (no date) Law School Pro Bono and Clinic Report 2020.
  • Jonathan Herring. (May 09, 2017) Legal Ethics: Oxford University Press.
  • Oxford Scholarship Online. (1999) 'The Social Context: Professional Ideals and Institutional Settings', in Professional legal ethics: critical interrogations, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • (no date) • The Bar Council 'Running on Empty - Civil Legal Aid Research Report' (January 2021).
  • (2015) 'Access to justice: beyond the policies and politics of austerity', in Access to Justice, Oxford: Hart Publishing.
  • Paterson, Alan A. (1996-03) 'Professionalism and the legal services market', in International Journal of the Legal Profession. vol. 3 (1-2) , pp.137-168
  • Nicolson, Donald; Webb, Julian S. (1999) Professional legal ethics: critical interrogations, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Nicholson, Donald. (2016) 'Our Roots Began in (South) Africa: Modeling Law Clinics to Maximize Social Justice Ends', in International Journal of Clinical Legal Education. vol. 23 (3) , pp.87-136
  • O'Dair, Richard. (2007) Legal ethics: text and materials, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Vanhala, Lisa; Kingham, Jacqui. (no date) Literature Review on the Use and Impact of Litigation - Public Law Project.
  • O'Dair, Richard. (2007) Legal ethics: text and materials, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Menkel-Meadow, C. . (no date) 'Practicing in the Interests of Justice in the Twenty-First Century: Pursuing Peace as Justice', in Fordham Law Review,. vol. 70 (5) , pp.1761-
  • Simon, William H. (1991) 'Lawyer Advice and Client Autonomy: Mrs. Jones's Case', in Maryland Law Review. vol. 50 (1) , pp.213-226
  • Smith, Roger. (no date) The Digital Delivery of Legal Services to people on low incomes.
  • Donald Nicolson. (2012) 'Access to justice and the legal profession', in SCOLAG Journal. vol. 416, pp.133-136
  • (2015) 'The Mental Capacity Act 2005: capacity and best interests', in Assessment of Mental Capacity, London: The Law Society. vol. Legal handbooks (Law Society (Great Britain)
  • Nicolson, Donald. (2015-01-02) 'Legal education, ethics and access to justice: forging warriors for justice in a neo-liberal world', in International Journal of the Legal Profession. vol. 22 (1) , pp.51-69
  • (no date) Witness statement of Polly Neate, CEO of Shelter, regarding access to justice in statutory homelessness appeals (8 November 2019).
  • Sally Lipscombe. (no date) • House of Commons Briefing Paper Housing and access to legal aid Published Tuesday, May 15, 2018.
  • Mackenzie, Catriona. (2014) 'The importance of relational autonomy and capabilities for an ethics of vulnerability', in Vulnerability: new essays in ethics and feminist philosophy, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Oakley, Emma; Vaughan, Steven. (2019-03) 'In Dependence: The Paradox of Professional Independence and Taking Seriously the Vulnerabilities of Lawyers in Large Corporate Law Firms', in Journal of Law and Society. vol. 46 (1) , pp.83-111
  • Rhode, Deborah L. (1999) 'Cultures of Commitment: Pro Bono for Lawyers and Law Students', in Fordham Law Review. vol. 67 (5) , pp.2415-2447
  • (no date) - Emma Marshall, Sue Harper and Hattie Stacey Family Law and Access to Legal Aid (PLP Research Briefing Paper March 2018).
  • Dare, Tim. (2004) 'Mere-Zeal, Hyper-Zeal and the Ethical Obligations of Lawyers', in Legal Ethics. vol. 7 (1)
  • Wendel, W. Bradley. (2004) 'Civil Obedience', in Columbia Law Review. vol. 104 (2)
  • (2017) Access to justice and legal aid: comparative perspectives on unmet legal need, Portland, Oregon: Hart Publishing.
  • Moore, Sarah E. H. (2017) Legal aid in crisis: assessing the impact of reform, Bristol: Policy Press.
  • Welsh, N. A. (no date) 'Remembering the Role of Justice in Resolution: Insights from Procedural and Social Justice Theories', in Journal of Legal Education,. vol. 54 (1) , pp.49-

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Fortnightly Reflective Diaries - Continuous Assessment (LW352 Legal Ethics)    30% 
Coursework   Portfolio (LW352 Legal Ethics)    50% 
Coursework   Written Exercise (LW352 Legal Ethics)    20% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Mr Lee Hansen, email: l.hansen@essex.ac.uk.
Prof Donald Nicolson, Dr. Olayinka Lewis, Ms. Lucy Davies,
Law UG Education Administrators - lawugadmin@essex.ac.uk


Travel costs for UK - based unpaid, approved work placements and live projects which are an integral part of a module may be covered by your department. (NB this will usually exclude field trips and site visits). Please check with your module supervisor to ensure that the activity is eligible.

External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 1341 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
1341 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Law (School of)

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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