Yes, that is right. After a year of committee work and a few weeks of intense deliberations, the faculty at Indiana Law recently voted to revise our 1L curriculum to make room for a new 4-credit Legal Professions course.
Our strategic plan makes a commitment to “offer our students a continuously updated curriculum that meets the changing needs of the profession and professionalism." This new course attempts to actually deliver on those words. It also represents a large bet on the pedagogical value of socio-legal research on the profession.
Our theory is two-fold. First, drawing upon carefully edited ethnographies and empirical studies, the course will provide students with a systematic overview of various practice settings. Obviously, workplace structure and incentives vary widely between large law firms, plaintiffs' lawyers, mill practice, prosecutors, public interest lawyers, etc. If students have a better theoretical and factual understanding of the modern legal marketplace, they can better understand the subtle factors that push lawyers to cross ethical lines--and the serious consequences that can follow.
Second, by frontloading legal ethics in the 1L curriculum, we hope to address the issue, flagged by both the recent Carnegie Report and the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE), that legal education tends to marginalize ethics, morality, and personal and professional values. According to the Carnegie Report, this is a by-product of the singleminded focus on legal reasoning ("thinking like a lawyer") in the 1L curriculum. After the first year, the Report finds, many students are left doubting that ethics or morality have any relevance to professional success; and a mandatory upper-level course in Professional Responsibility is too little too late.