Category Archives: BLE Panels

The CLE of BLE

Two of the audiences for this blog are teachers of legal ethics who want to explore the behavioral aspects of ethical decision-making with their students and practicing attorneys who grapple with ethical decisions. For the former group, recently I culled from our archives blog posts that might be of interest. Finding ways for the latter group to access relevant material can be more difficult — after all, practicing lawyers tend to be quite busy and learning about a new field, especially one that is inter-disciplinary, has its challenges. This is why I am thrilled to learn about what looks like an excellent CLE program on the subject, sponsored by the Texas Center for Legal Ethics, entitled “Your Brain on Ethics: How That Thing Between Your Ears Can Lead You Astray” (for a description, see Your Brain on Ethics — course description — April 2019).

This program caught my eye for two reasons (in addition to its catchy title). The first is that the faculty involves a leader in the field of behavioral science scholarship and pedagogy, Professor Robert Prentice, who is Department Chair, Business, Government and Society, at McCombs School of Business, University of Texas at Austin. For those not familiar with Professor Prentice’s work, I commend his long list of publications on behavioral science and decision-making, including his more recent work about behavioral ethics pedagogy (listed in this post).  In addition, Professor Prentice is a founder of Ethics Unwrapped, one the best resources available for teaching behavioral ethics (I guest blogged for Ethics Unwrapped a few years ago).

The second reason that this CLE program caught my eye is that it includes an excellent written overview of the field of Behavioral Legal Ethics, entitled “Ethical Decision Making, Fast and Slow,” which is now publicly available here.  The summary includes a description of the role of Systems 1 and 2 processing, as well as the many situational factors and cognitive and motivational biases that can produce unintended unethical behavior. For anyone looking for an introduction to the field, this is a wonderful place to start.

This program will next be presented at the Texas Health Law Conference on October 8, 2019, for anyone who might be interested.

Update:  9/12/19: Here is the Table of Contents for the written materials for “Ethical Decision Making, Fast and Slow”:


Links to Symposium Scholarship

The articles produced in conjunction with New England Law Review’s symposium on Behavioral Legal Ethics are now available online.  Thanks to all for helping to make this event such a success:




Upcoming Symposium: Behavioral Legal Ethics

I’m happy to announce that the New England Law Review‘s fall symposium on November 10th will focus on Behavioral Legal Ethics.  The symposium’s lead article, by Associate Dean Catherine Gage O’Grady  from The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law, is entitled “A BEHAVIORAL APPROACH TO LAWYER MISTAKE AND APOLOGY.”  Response articles include:


Panelists at the symposium include Dean O’Grady; Professor Paul Tremblay (Clinical Professor of Law and Law School Fund Distinguished Scholar, Boston College Law School); Barbara Bowe, LICSW (Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers); and me.

Admission is free and open to the public.


BLE and the Practicing Lawyer

Having recently returned from International Legal Ethics Conference VII, I was happy to see so much interest in the emerging field of Behavioral Legal Ethics (BLE).  The two BLE panels on which I participated were well attended.  Other panels also included discussions of BLE, including a fascinating discussion of how behavioral science is making its way into the education of South African lawyers.

I am also heartened to see that the field is expanding to include important discussions among legal practitioners.  For instance, Catherine O’Grady and I have produced this online CLE program with the Practising Law Institute that has been viewed by more than 800 lawyers (registration fee required).  As another example, I just came across this article in a recent edition of the Oregon State Bar Bulletin (the magazine for Oregon’s practicing lawyers) that lays out some of the fundamentals of BLE (citing many leading BLE scholars such as Jean Sternlight & Jennifer Robbennolt, Robert Prentice and Catherine O’Grady).  How great that BLE has started to take hold with those who need it most — lawyers who regularly struggle with the ethical dilemmas that arise in practice.

For anyone interested in BLE, it is an exciting time indeed!

ABA Conference on Professional Responsibility


For those attending the ABA’s National Conference on Professional Responsibility in Denver later this week, please join us for a panel discussion on Behavioral Legal Ethics (program here).  I am participating, along with Molly Wilson, Robert Prentice and Catherine O’GradyAndy Perlman, who was recently announced as the next Dean of Suffolk Law School, will moderate.  I will report back on the event next week.

Update:  06/4/15:  The ABA conference was excellent. Our BLE presentation followed a wonderful discussion, led by Stephen Pepper and John Barrett, and moderated by Lisa Lerman, about lawyer decision-making in Nazi Germany, which has been described as “the worst legal ethics disaster in the Western world.” Our panel on behavioral ethics focused on a more modern case of legal ethics, the Dewey & LeBoeuf debacle, which again is in the news because of the current trial of the firm’s leadership.  I understand that the materials from our presentation will soon be posted by the ABA, which I will link to here when available.  Thanks to all who helped make the panel discussion so enjoyable.

Update:  06/9/15:  The ABA has now posted the materials from the session here.

Update:  09/5/15:  The ABA/BNA Lawyers’ Manual on Professional Conduct, 31 Law. Man. Prof. Conduct 320, 06/03/2015, has a nice write-up of the program.  Alas, it is behind a pay wall, but is often available through law school libraries for those with access.


ABA Panel on Behavioral Legal Ethics

mainThe ABA’s Business Law Section will be holding what promises to be an excellent panel on behavioral legal ethics at its annual meeting in Chicago on September 12, 2014. It looks great and is highly recommended.

Michael Herman, the program chair, has provided the following description:

The Road to Abilene, Temporary Blindness, Slippery Slopes, and Other Hazards to Ethical Behavior by Lawyers

Lawyers confront ethical challenges, such as potential conflicts of interest, on a daily basis. Our last program discussed the largely unconscious cognitive biases that, without our being aware of them, affect everyone, including lawyers. This program will explore what research in behavioral, social, and organizational psychology can teach us about how the dynamics of group and other organizational settings, including law firms, influence our ethical choices.

The panel of distinguished scholars and practitioners (including long-time Section friend Don Langevoort, of Georgetown Law Center, and leading behavioral ethics scholar Ann Tenbrunsel, of Notre Dame) will cover topics such as bounded ethicality, self-serving bias, framing, ethical fading, motivated blindness and incrementalism, using case studies, demonstrations, and video clips.

In addition, Dr. Larry Richard will be part of the panel. Dr. Richard, a psychologist and a lawyer, will speak to how lawyers in particular are subject to some of these influences. We will also be discussing two fact-based studies to give the audience a sense of how these concepts actually play out in particular circumstances.