The University of Virginia School of Law trains students to be outstanding members of the legal profession. Regardless of the varied career paths pursued by UVA Law students, the obligations and expectations of the legal profession are consistent. The purpose of this document is to set forth some core elements of professionalism for lawyers and to explain how the Law School aims to foster these obligations and expectations in its students.
As an integral part of students’ education at the Law School, and in preparation for practice as legal professionals, the Law School faculty expects law students to:
1. Master the law and lawyering
The primary professional value is competence. Lawyers are expected to analyze legal issues competently. To do this, they must collect and comprehend relevant information, identify the issues that are raised by a matter, understand the applicable legal rules, and provide coherent analysis. These skills include the ability to research both facts and law, to synthesize complex information, to draw reliable inferences, to apply knowledge and skills to new situations, and to provide clear and cogent analysis.
Law students practice and hone these skills and demonstrate mastery of course material in the classroom, on examinations, in papers and other assignments, through clinical and other experiential work, through extracurricular activities such as journals and moot court, and in other settings.
2. Communicate effectively and candidly with others orally and in writing
Professionalism requires lawyers to communicate effectively and candidly with clients, colleagues, opposing counsel, transactional parties, courts and other government officials, the press, and members of the public. Effective communication includes both expressing oneself and listening to others.
Law students learn oral communication skills through class participation, including both open and structured discussion (such as Socratic method), through courses and extracurricular activities that require oral presentations, and through conversation with fellow members of the Law School community. Law students learn written communication skills through writing papers and examinations; participating in extracurricular activities; and corresponding with, among others, instructors, prospective employers, administrators, staff, and fellow students. In all communications, law students are expected to act with candor and integrity.
3. Understand and comply with rules and protocols
Professionalism requires lawyers to understand and comply with the Rules of Professional Conduct and other rules of the profession as well as conform their conduct to the requirements of the law. Lawyers are expected to be aware of and compliant with expectations of the workplace and other demands of practice.
Law students are expected to be familiar with and comply with the Academic Policies of the Law School, including policies relating to attendance and professionalism. Law students are also expected to comply with administrative and academic rules, including those relating to assignments, papers, examinations, course selection, course enrollment, financial aid, and graduation requirements. Law students are expected to comply with all ethical obligations applicable to summer or other external employment as well as representation of clients in clinical and similar settings.
4. Manage time and projects responsibly
Lawyers typically represent several different clients and handle several different matters simultaneously. As a result, professionalism requires them to manage their work time and effort responsibly, as well as to maintain personal well-being and healthy relationships with others.
Law students are expected to manage multiple academic and non-academic assignments throughout the semester and, by doing so, learn time and personal management. Law students are expected to attend to their personal wellness and are encouraged to utilize appropriate resources provided through the Law School, the University, and the community.
5. Act with diligence
Professionalism requires lawyers to be diligent in their representations and to devote prompt attention to the responsibilities attendant to the legal profession.
Law students develop and demonstrate habits of diligence by attending promptly to academic and extracurricular responsibilities, by arriving punctually for professional commitments, including classes and field experiences, by meeting deadlines for course assignments and requirements, and by responding promptly to communications from instructors, employers, staff, and others.
6. Treat others with courtesy and respect
Professionalism requires lawyers to extend courtesy and respect to all, including clients, colleagues, opposing counsel, judicial and other government officials, and the general public.
Law students develop ethics of courtesy and respect by interacting fairly with others regardless of difference, developing the ability to engage productively with those who hold conflicting attitudes and opinions or who come from different backgrounds and cultures, and working cooperatively with faculty, staff, clients, their classmates, and others.
7. Engage in public service
Lawyers are entrusted to serve as guardians of the law, to support improvements in the law, and to strengthen respect for the rule of law. Lawyers are expected to support access to justice, serve in and lead legal and public institutions, and to serve their communities, the disadvantaged, and the marginalized.
Law students are expected to develop their commitment to community and public service through pro bono opportunities, clinical coursework, participation in student organizations, and other opportunities for service to the Law School, the University, and the greater community.