Epistemology and Ethics in Relationship-Centered Legal Education and Practice
Epistemology involves views about knowledge and how it is developed. It is the study of how individuals come to know the truth about given phenomena as it relates to the knowledge generation process: How is knowledge acquired, internalized, and applied to situations? In the discussion that follows, the authors present a model for enhancing legal education that is premised on changing the culture of the legal profession by adjusting the epistemology toward a relationship-centered framework. This analysis draws upon recent research into personal values and how they influence behavior. The conclusions from this research are consistent with the realities in current legal practice where the dominant narrative is adversarialism and many lawyers tend to conform their behavior to meet this social expectation rather than feeling disconnected from the profession. The necessary extension of this argument, and what the authors propose, is that if the legal epistemology is changed to be consistent with a relationship-centered, experientially-rich approach, law students and practitioners will adjust their behavior in conformance with an emerging narrative that values the significance of extra-legal, contextualized elements of a client’s life. The article also draws upon neurobiology and cognitive science to explore how ethical and professional practice can be taught, including questions such as whether crucial skills such as empathy can be enhanced through educational experiences connected to a relational approach to legal practice.
Susan L. Brooks and Robert Madden III. "Epistemology and Ethics in Relationship-Centered Legal Education and Practice" New York Law School Law Review (2011).