Accessibility statement

Professionalism & Ethics - LAW00011I

« Back to module search

  • Department: The York Law School
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Alex Green
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2022-23 to Summer Term 2022-23
B Spring Term 2022-23 to Summer Term 2022-23

Module aims

  • To develop an awareness of your own individual values and ethical priorities and the application of those values and priorities in relevant practical contexts
  • To develop an ability to recognise, resolve and reflect upon ethical problems which are relevant to lawyers and the legal profession, and elsewhere
  • To further develop your knowledge and understanding of the relationship between the individual lawyer, the legal profession, the legal system and justice in England and Wales
  • To develop your knowledge and understanding of the law and ethics that govern relationships that lawyers have with clients, other lawyers, the profession and the legal system

Module learning outcomes

At the end of the module you should be able, through the completion of your assessments, to demonstrate:

  • knowledge and understanding of philosophical and ethical principles which are relevant to professional ethics (MLO1)

This MLO addresses your knowledge and understanding of a range of influences over individual approaches to ethical dilemmas and the way they overlap with professional ethics, and legal professional ethics in particular. These influences include your own values and general ethical principles. In seeking to understand the way in which professional ethical rules work it is important to recognise the limits of rules and the way in which our own values and general ethical approaches can and do inform our responses to ethical dilemmas. This MLO raises a range of issues which are connected to values things which you consider to be important (normally related to morality). What are your values? What role do they play in helping you respond to difficult moral questions? Where do you get your own values from? How do they interact with more general ethical theories? What relevance do they have to professional ethics? You will be introduced to some of these themes in the first couple of problems but the development of your ideas will cut across the entire module. Understanding that there is no necessary right answer to some problems should be illuminated by your consideration of ethical issues within plenaries and in different professional contexts. Part of the learning on this module involves you getting to grips with ethical uncertainty and seeking clarity about issues which are morally ambiguous. If you are seeking a definitive answer you will not find it here you should, however develop some intellectual machinery to help you analyse and understand ethical issues and your own responses to them reasoning towards an answer being an important outcome.

  • knowledge and understanding of concepts of professionalism in the legal and other professions (MLO2)

This MLO focuses on the nature of professions and those working within these structures. Some of the questions for the legal and other professions in the 21st Century are what these concepts may mean, their implications, whether they are applicable to particular vocations (such as legal practice), and whether they are relevant to modern society at all. Rather than seeking to define the concepts with some precision, your knowledge and understanding here will provide the context for some of the issues in MLO3.

  • knowledge and understanding of different aspects of the legal profession and some basic principles relating to professional and ethical responsibility of lawyers in England and Wales (MLO3)

This MLO focuses on two aspects of the legal profession (i) Macro issues regarding the legal profession itself, and (ii) Micro issues regarding different elements of legal professional ethics.

(i) The Macro issues include developments under the Legal Services Act 2007 and other structural issues. We are in a fascinating period for the provision of legal services in the UK. For most of the 20th Century, the legal profession remained relatively static. From around the 1980s onwards various factors have led to a fragmentation in the provision of legal services and a very different legal profession. The Legal Services Act 2007 was a response to some of those changes and a framework for further change and restructuring. In other words the legal profession of the 2020s may be unrecognisable to recent law graduates. So the first part of this MLO looks at the legal profession with a macro-lens, taking a broad overview of the profession. Whether you want to practice law or not, an understanding of the changes being wrought to a fundamental societal institution should raise interesting and important questions about the role of law and lawyers in society.

(ii) The second part of the MLO covers your knowledge and understanding of micro-ethical issues i.e. different aspects of various legal professional ethical issues. We will consider various models of lawyering broad concepts that seek to define the relationship between lawyers, their clients and the legal system. You may already be aware of the rules that govern the professional conduct of lawyers dealing with issues such as conflicts of interest, client confidentiality and acting in the client s best interests. Once again these detailed rules have been under a process of review and change to principles and outcomes rather than rules and regulations. We will be examining some key issues and seeing how they might be applied (and not applied) in practical problems.

  • the ability to use the knowledge and understanding gained to reflect upon, critically evaluate and analyse realistic professional and ethical problems (MLO4)

This MLO concentrates on the application of your knowledge and understanding in other MLOs in relation to the range of issues which arise in your plenaries or small group sessions. One of the challenges of this module is the lack of clarity about the right answer. Ethical decision-making cannot sit in a vacuum it must be applied to common circumstances. The act of deliberation over the right course of action and debate with colleagues is part of the process of ethical reasoning. Being open to different perspectives; being challenged about your own perspective and rationalising those perspectives is part of the process of learning on this module.

Module content

The summative assessment involves two elements: a written essay-style task (applying module content to ‘real world’ examples); and contribution to PBL sessions, the latter being a major enabling factor in achieving the learning outcomes (as noted under MLO4). The reassessment of contribution is in a different form - a written submission - as it is not possible to recreate the environment in which contribution is made. Therefore, students will be examined on their understanding of the impact of their contribution to PBL activities on both their own and others' learning in the context of Professionalism & Ethics, in particular. Students will be given the opportunity to complete this reassessment if they fail the module and the module failure includes a failure in the assessed contribution element of the module.


Task Length % of module mark
Professionalism & Ethics Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Professionalism & Ethics Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students receive written feedback on the Formative and Summative Assessments, as well as the Reassessment.

Opportunities for individual discussion with the Module Leader are provided for the Formative Assessment.

Indicative reading

  • Professionalism & Ethics Block Guide
  • Boon, The Ethics and Conduct of Lawyers in England and Wales (3rd Ed. Hart Publishing, 2014).
  • J. Herring, Legal Ethics (2nd Ed. OUP, 2017)
  • D. Nicolson and J. Webb, Professional Legal Ethics: Critical Interrogations (OUP, 1999)
  • R. O'Dair, Legal Ethics Text and Materials (CUP, 2001)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.