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42 J. Legal Educ. 31 (1992)
Ethics by the Pervasive Method

handle is hein.journals/jled42 and id is 43 raw text is: Ethics by the Pervasive Method
Deborah L. Rhode
The futility of much that has been perpetrated in Legal Ethics lectures at our law
schools has made the very words Legal Ethics so objectionable that certain law
teachers would gladly vote to abolish the words altogether, but on the whole it
seemed better to follow the accepted terminology, and to hope that, under the
despised name, the really estimable subject will achieve the good reputation which
it deserves.
-George Costigan'
Legal ethics has long been a subject of popular polemics and bar
platitudes, but only in the last two decades has it received serious academic
treatment. The conventional view on most faculties has been that education
in professional responsibility is someone else's responsibility. Any system-
atic instruction appears unnecessary or unwise. Some commentators as-
sume that coverage of ethical concerns will occur naturally and pervasively
throughout the curricula, a position difficult to reconcile with available
evidence.2 Other educators conclude that postgraduate courses in ethics
offer too little, too late: childhood socialization, situational pressures, and
practice norms can haidly be offset through occasional sermonizing by
academics.
These views have remained largely unchanged despite the growing
importance of ethical regulation and its increased respectability as an
academic discipline. Although many professional schools now require
ethics instruction, the limitations of current approaches have revived
disputes about moral values in higher education. The following analysis
attempts to situate this debate in a broader perspective by drawing on
historical, theoretical, cross-professional, and empirical research. Its central
premise is that ethics by the pervasive method is an aspiration that has
been too quickly abandoned. Too often the issue is cast as a choice between
separate courses or integrated coverage; too seldom do professional schools
seriously attempt both.
Deborah L. Rhode is Professor of Law, Stanford University. The author is grateful for the
research assistance of Joan Krause, the manuscript preparation by Diana Storm and Kathleen
Ansari, and the comments of Ralph Cavanagh, Lawrence Friedman, and William Simon. This
article is part of a longer project that will culminate in a book of materials for integrating ethics
materials into the core law school curriculum. That initiative is supported by the generosity of
the Walter and Elise Haas Fund and the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr., Fund. A modified
version of this article, Professional Ethics and Professional Education, will appear in the
inaugural issue of the Journal of Professional Ethics (forthcoming).
1. George P. Costigan, Jr., The Teaching of Legal Ethics, 4 Am. L. Sch. Rev. 290, 294
(1917).
2. See infra text accompanying notes 20-23, 43-47, 52.

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