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Law and Method

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August, 2021 Expand all abstracts
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Access_open Special issue on Education in (Professional) Legal Ethics, Emanuel van Dongen & Jet ­Tigchelaar (eds.)

Keywords professional ethics
Authors Emanuel van Dongen and Jet Tigchelaar
AbstractAuthor's information

    The theme of the special issue of Law and Method on Education in (Professional) Legal Ethics consists both of content-related as well as didactical-oriented contributions, of which most are written in the Dutch language and two are written in the English language. The content-related approaches show that in education in legal ethics use can be made of professional standards, constitutional principles as well as general ethical theories (such as utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics). Because lawyers work with ‘the law’, broader or narrower conceptions of law (in relation to morality) also affect legal reasoning and are therefore relevant to education in professional legal ethics. However, these approaches are also put into perspective: the leap forward from moral reasoning based on abstract core values and ethical principles to morally correct action in concrete moral dilemmas in legal practice is a large one. Several solutions are proposed: I. teach ethics indirectly, stressing the importance of facts and of professional role consciousness, and of the importance of formal and informal respect for all concerned, as an essential part of the professional lawyers’ role (Kaptein – written in English); II. use insights from social psychology to overcome barriers to actual ethical behaviour (Becker and Mackor); III. use dialogues about case studies that demonstrate different aspects of judicial ethics for judges (Brenninkmeijer&Bish – written in English) or IV. give (to future governmental lawyers) context-sensitive bottom-up moral dilemmas to enhance realism, alertness and role resistance against opposing forces (Van Lochem). A relevant theme in the didactical approaches to legal ethics is the absence or limited practical professional experience law students have, so that, for example, conversation techniques based on personal experience have limited value. At university level, this can be remedied to some extent by reinforcing one’s own experience, i.e. experiential learning, or by bringing the experiences of others into the classroom, for example with guest lecturers from the field, or by telling and discussing fictional or true stories (Van Dongen & Tigchelaar). Education at university gives a good starting point for (professional) legal ethics, followed by post-academic legal ethics education and legal practice as lifelong learning school. A contribution with a focus on the notary (Waaijer) highlights the different approaches within this continuum.


Emanuel van Dongen
Dr. Emanuel van Dongen is Assistant Professor Private Law at the Molengraaff Institute for Private Law, researcher at the Utrecht Centre for Accountability and Liability Law and the Montaigne Centre for Rule of Law and Administration of Justice, Utrecht School of Law.

Jet Tigchelaar
Dr. Jet Tigchelaar, Assistent Professor Legal Theory, researcher at Utrecht Centre for European Research into Family Law, Utrecht School of Law.