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[Opinion] Ethics Test for Reserve Lawyers

Posted February. 14, 2003 22:37,   


America is called a paradise for lawyers. There are more than 30 lawyers per every 10,000 population. Of former presidents of the country, many have been lawyer-turned politicians. The reason for this large number, in fact, has something to do with the diversity in ethnicity. With people from many different countries live together in a society, there are many disputes requiring court decisions both on the society and the household level. Lawyers deal with all kinds of disputes, and it is hard to find judicial or labor relations experts. Demand is strong and lawyers are all busy. The number of lawyers in Korea topped 5,000 this year, and still a single lawyer covers more than 10,000 people.

▷As lawyers abound, there are a lot of jokes about them in the U.S. One of the most popular ones is that not a single lawyer is found in heaven. While people saying this is because they are all sinners in this earthly world, lawyers tell their part of the story - it is because they could not find cases for money since there are only good-hearted people in heaven. Some even say half-jokingly that when you are involved in a traffic accident on the highway, you will see a lawyer even before a policeman. Unethical behaviors by lawyers could harm their clients and further the integrity of the judicial system. The profession, therefore, requires a high level of ethics than any other job.

▷The Korea Bar Association gave an ethics test for the first time to soon-to-be lawyers who finished the official prep course, and it was found that one third of students cheated during the test. Why during the ethics exam? Looking into it, however, the test is more like a home assignment. Questions for the test were given away and students had to take them home and complete essay answers by referring to law books. The trainees, thinking the home assignment was just like a report they used to do in colleges, copied some well-written essays.

▷With high-tech Internet infrastructure in place across the country, teachers at schools are having hard times giving home assignment as students easily find useful pieces of information over the Internet and plagiarize with little hesitance. Even a software program designed to prevent plagiarism has been developed. The bar association intended to promote the sense of ethics among the soon-to-be lawyers by giving the ethics test. Yet, it seems that the association chose a wrong way of doing it. It must have been better to prepare an ethics program than give a test since it aimed to teach students ethics rules. This does not mean, however, that it is okay for the trainees to copy others` works just with several clicks and typing-ins.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial Writer, hthwang@donga.com