Monthly Archives: March 2017

Teaching Behavioral Legal Ethics: A Seminar


Paula Schaefer

As the field of Behavioral Legal Ethics expands, it’s exciting to watch how law professors are teaching the material. My article on how I teach behavioral science as part of a required 3-credit legal ethics course was recently published.  Others have also started publishing about their experiences.

But what  about those who want to delve into the material more deeply by teaching a semester long seminar dedicated to legal ethics and behavioral science?  For those looking for a model, I encourage you to take a look at the syllabus that Professor Paula Schaefer from the University of Tennessee Law School has graciously shared.  As you can see, Professor Schaefer’s course on Behavioral Legal Ethics — which is structured around a series of case studies — is an in-depth exploration of many of the core themes that has emerged from the science of ethical decision-making.  The course looks fantastic (indeed, I wish I could take it!) — and I will be eager to hear more about the experience of teaching this material in a seminar setting.

The description of Professor Schaefer’s course is as follows:

Behavioral science provides insight into why lawyers who believe themselves to be ethical nonetheless engage in professional misconduct. Students will gain an understanding of the psychological factors outside of the lawyer’s conscious awareness that impact decisionmaking and develop strategies for combatting these issues in practice. Course materials will include case studies of illegal and unethical lawyer conduct and behavioral science research. Students will analyze and discuss readings in online forums and in the classroom. In a final project, students will present research into how behavioral science explains attorney misconduct in a selected practice setting.

(ps: If others know of other seminars dedicated teaching BLE, feel free to share them in the comments — it would be nice to start gathering this material in one place).