The Moser Ethics in Action Initiative: Exhibiting Professionalism in Law and Life
The successor program to the Leadership, Ethics and Democracy (LEAD) Initiative
In recent years, significant questions are being raised about whether the legal profession is the noble calling it should be. Central to these questions are concerns about deficiencies in meeting ethical responsibilities and the profession’s failure to effectively address the access to justice crisis in this country. The University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, with generous support from the Moser Family Philanthropic Fund, has taken a leadership role in addressing these concerns through new emphasis on ethics and professionalism in its curriculum, outreach to the profession, and more direct involvement in projects advancing access to justice.
In 2007, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching issued its report on legal education. The report, in part, focused on the need for law schools to devote more attention to developing students’ ethical, practice-based and social interaction skills. In response to this call for action, in 2008 the Fetzer Institute made a three-year $1.6 million funding commitment to the University of Maryland School of Law to help it respond to these challenges and create a Leadership, Ethics and Democracy program ("LEAD"). The law school recognized that students enter law school with little understanding about the legal profession and what lawyers do. Students need thorough grounding in what it means to be in a profession, what obligations flow from that status, how a lawyer’s values relate to his or her professional obligations, what types of moral and ethical problems lawyers confront, and what problems the profession faces now, and why.
The projects the LEAD Initiative undertook “help[ed] students develop cross-cultural competencies, their full leadership potential, and a deeper understanding and appreciation of the professional responsibility of lawyers,” noted Michael Millemann, Jacob A. France Professor of Public Interest Law and a key architect of the law school’s nationally acclaimed clinical programs.
The LEAD Initiative produced a book, Law and Leadership: Integrating Leadership Studies into the Law School Curriculum, and a Symposium issue of the Maryland Law Review entitled The Profession and the Academy: Addressing Major Changes in Law Practice, both of which detail the foundational work completed during the three-year partnership. After the conclusion of the grant period, the School of Law continued the work generated by the LEAD Initiative through the Moser Ethics in Action Initiative.
Building on the LEAD Initiative, the law school is now well-positioned—with support from the Moser family—to continue this important work through the Moser Ethics in Action Initiative. Liz Moser, wife of the late Peter Moser, the Initiative’s namesake, developed this project to help the school do far more in enhancing focus on ethics and professionalism throughout our curriculum and in involving the law school more actively in confronting and finding solutions to problems within the legal profession.
About the Initiative
M. Peter Moser, a highly respected lawyer and national expert on ethics, worked every day toward transforming the profession. Moser joined Piper & Marbury in 1992 and remained at the firm through its changeover to DLA Piper until his death in 2008. His life-long commitment to ethics and the advancement of professionalism can be seen through his service to the Bar which includes: President of the Maryland and Baltimore City Bar Associations; Chair of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility; Chair of the Maryland State Ethics Commission; and Chair of the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission.
Moser, who graduated from the Citadel in two and a half years and then graduated from Harvard Law School at the age of 22, was a native Baltimorean who valued the importance of community service. He was widely lauded by his peers for his pro bono efforts.
“His focus on providing access to justice to underserved individuals was intense and purposeful,” noted UM Carey Law Professor Susan Leviton, a longtime family friend. “Throughout his more than five-decade career, Peter inspired and mentored scores of lawyers—using himself as a living example of strong leadership and commitment to public service.”
Moser’s commitment to ethics and professionalism and his steadfast dedication to community and pro bono service are qualities that will guide students and professors in the Moser Initiative at the law school.
The mission of the Moser Initiative is to:
- Enrich the course offerings at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law to promote professionalism and ethics and to better prepare law students to enter a dramatically changing legal profession; and
- Involve the law school more actively in addressing the access to justice crisis and needed reforms in the legal profession.
Students have the option of receiving credit through externships with federal and state agencies, bar associations and non-profits that have ethical oversight roles. Assignments may include: preparing drafts of legal ethics opinions (for the Maryland Bar Legal Ethics Committee); preparing guidelines on permissible forms of client solicitation (for Civil Justice); and participating in discussions with federal prosecutors on anticipated ethics problems (for the U.S. Department of Justice Professional Responsibility Advisory Office). These assignments give students the opportunities to see how ethics issues arise and are resolved in real settings and to help provide guidelines to interpret ethics policies.
The Moser Initiative, now in its second year, is already having a significant impact. New courses on ethics and “how and why lawyers get into trouble” are being offered. A “roving professor” pilot project has started under which experienced ethics professors are available to come into other professors’ course to focus greater attention on professionalism issues. New emphasis is being given at Orientation for entering students on ethics concerns. In addition, the law school has started a new program to provide professionalism skills training programs for practitioners.
The Moser Family has issued a $250,000 matching challenge to other philanthropic supporters. Additional funding through the match could allow for some or all of the following:
- Emphasis on ethics and professionalism themes through introductory first year and boot camp
- Creation of a “lunch with a leader” series, where leaders from various sectors (law practice, business, government, non-profit) speak, informally, with students about career choices and provide students with an opportunity to network;
- Creation of 1-2 credit ethics add-ons that interested students can take as supplements to courses in which they are currently enrolled;
- In collaboration with local city and state bar associations, host continuing legal education sessions for young attorneys and second and third year law students focused on ethics and professionalism;
- Addition to existing courses, particularly lawyers skills-related courses, that highlight ethics and professionalism-related concerns;
- Enhancements to Legal Profession courses or seminars which utilize simulation and problem-solving teaching techniques and which offer externships with agencies such as the attorney grievance commissions;
- Creation of a speaker series, where thought leaders visit campus to lecture on a theme of leadership, and meet and interact with students;
- Support of the Center for Dispute Resolution’s efforts to provide interdisciplinary training on dispute resolution and professionalism topics;
- Implementation of training workshops designed to help students ethically negotiate and communicate.