Legal Ethics and Justice

The details
Law (School of)
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 02 July 2021
22 October 2020


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's 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 Clinic's help. However, it will be of interest and benefit to all students who are thinking of entering legal practice, particularly if they wish to use their legal skills to help those most in need.

The module will also appeal to those who enjoy "learning by doing". Thus a central focus is on what is called active or experiential learning in that it involves the use of real-life experiences or simulations designed to replicate such real-life experiences as the basis for learning. In law school, this form of learning is usually called clinical legal education. Throughout the world and increasingly in the United Kingdom clinical legal education is becoming central to legal education.

According to one expert, 'Clinical Legal Education involves an intensive small group learning experience in which each student takes responsibility for legal and related work for a client (whether real or simulated) in collaboration with a supervisor. The student takes the opportunity to reflect on matters including their interactions with the client, their colleagues and their supervisor, as well as the ethical aspects and impact of the law and legal process'. In the module such reflection will occur in class, in learning diaries and written assignments. .

For those who are Clinic members, reflection will cover both what they learn about ethics and access to justice in fortnightly seminars and from their clinical work (both cases and projects). In addition to also reflecting on their seminar learning, non-clinic members will reflect on participation in an exercise involving what is known as "Giving Voice to Values". Here, they will have attempt to persuade some other person (their boss or client, for instance) to chance a proposed course of action because of a clash of values relating to the ethics or justice of legal practice. The module will also explore current issues in obtaining access to justice. In addition, there will be an attempt to involve as much interactive learning as possible so that students gain experience in articulating their values in a safe environment before they venture into practice. Such interaction will occur in the fortnightly seminars which involve students using the learning form pre-set reading to explore actual dilemmas and issues which have arisen in law clinics and legal practice, and in some cases engaging in related role-plays.

The seminars will start with an introduction to experiential learning and the aims of ethical education, with particular emphasis on Giving Voice to Values. There will then follow nine seminars on issues of legal ethics and access to justice most pertinent to law clinic students and those who serve those most in need of legal services. Students will write fortnightly diaries while Clinic members will also write an essay reflecting on one or more aspects of their clinic work and non-clinic members will prepare for and reflect on their performance in a Giving Voice to Values exercise.

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 week's video lectures 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.


This module does not appear to have any essential texts. To see non-essential items, please refer to the module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Fortnightly Reflective Diaries    20% 
Coursework   Skills-Based Coursework Assignment    20% 
Coursework   Summative Essay    60% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Donald Nicolson, email: dn17405@essex.ac.uk.
Mr Lee Hansen, Prof Donald Nicolson and Elizabeth Fisher-Frank, Lucy Davies, Jaime Lindsey, Timea Tallodi
Law General Office, 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 3924 hours, 18 (0.5%) hours available to students:
3906 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)

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