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William and Mary Law Review

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We who teach legal ethics employ many of the teacher's arts to win our students' appreciation for the course. We do not always succeed. As Deborah Rhode has observed, "[t]here are inherent problems and infinite ways to fail in teaching this subject." Yet, we continue to seek a method for teaching the course effectively. If nothing else, our efforts have led to the development of a substantial body of literature on teaching legal ethics to which this Article will contribute. Its focus is on what, rather than how, to teach. This Article asks: What should be the content of the "basic" course in professional responsibility? Many would agree that a law school should offer such a course, although not every law school in fact does so, because law students must receive a basic grounding in the subject. Accordingly, in addition to considering how we should teach the course in "professional responsibility" or "legal ethics"--whether by simulations, videotapes, problems, or cases-it makes sense to consider what we should teach. This Article addresses the principal alternative, rather than supplement, to the "survey" course: a "contextual" course in professional responsibility. By this term, I mean a basic course that familiarizes students with "the skills, concepts and processes necessary to recognize and resolve ethical dilemmas"' that arise in a limited number of contexts, rather than across the full spectrum of legal matters, practice settings, and client types. Concededly, contextual courses do not give a complete picture. But no single course in professional responsibility can do so. Our experience at Fordham is that "less is more." A contextual course is more effective because it provides a better picture than the survey course and tends to be better received.