Lawyers as heroes: Promoting altruism in law students through pro bono teaching clinics

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A ‘good lawyer’ is a lawyer who is not only knowledgeable, competent and effective, but also committed to behaving ethically and working towards the public good. They are concerned not only with doing what is best for themselves and their client, they are also concerned with identifying the ways in which legal expertise, legal services and the law itself can be used to address injustice and foster communal wellbeing. To become good lawyers in this sense, law students need to develop heroic attributes such as altruism, empathy and community awareness during their years at law school, and law schools need to create the conditions in which such development is facilitated and even encouraged. Law schools can foster heroic attributes in law students through the use of pro bono teaching clinics. In these clinics, law students work with volunteer lawyers to provide free legal advice to clients typically unable to access legal services and support. This paper describes how the notion of heroism applies to law students and lawyers, explains why law schools should teach students to be ‘heroic’ lawyers, and– by examining qualitative data obtained from law students and volunteer legal professionals participating in pro bono teaching clinics – considers how law schools can use a pro bono teaching clinic to foster the development of heroic attributes in law students. It also considers the challenges inherent in implementing such teaching practices and suggests ways in which law schools can address these challenges.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2016
EventThe Rise and Future of Heroism Science: A Cross-Disciplinary Conference - Murdoch University, Perth, Australia
Duration: 11 Jul 201612 Jul 2016


ConferenceThe Rise and Future of Heroism Science: A Cross-Disciplinary Conference
OtherIn 2006 psychologists Zeno Franco and Philip Zimbardo published their seminal paper “The Banality of Heroism” in Greater Good, catapulting heroism into the realm of scientific inquiry and the everyday for the first time in academic history. The advent of the multiple disciplinary field of ‘heroism science’, coined by Scott Allison, George Goethals and Rod Kramer (Editors of the forthcoming inaugural Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership), signals the opening up of heroism which has traditionally been the monopoly of myth, fiction and popular culture to other disciplines, offering a multi-perspective lens for the active and rigorous observation of this enduring phenomenon.

This conference will mark the first forum of its kind for researchers in Australia and around the world to come together and discuss key issues in the emerging field. It offers an open challenge to all disciplines to consider the following question: How can your field(s) of inquiry contribute a unique perspective to the re-conceptualisation and development of innovative frameworks of heroism, heroic leadership and the hero’s journey, and their relevance in 21st century societies? It is a challenge to a broad range of experts to discover the relevance of heroism and heroic leadership to their work, whether explicit or implicit, and critically examine these connections.
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