Name: Susan Saab Fortney

Title: George H. Mahon Professor of Law

School: Texas Tech University School of Law

Mailing Address:

1802 Hartford

Lubbock, Texas 79409

Phone: 806-742-3990 extension 233


Home Page:


Summary Description:

Collaborative Legal Ethics Course

As a Fulbright Scholar, I taught a collaborative legal ethics class for law students in Texas and Slovenia. For the class, law students worked in teams consisting of two Texas Tech students and one Slovenian student. On a weekly basis, the students would tackle legal ethics problems facing legal practitioners. Using e-mail, students would communicate with their partners and me, commenting on their observations and questions that I posed. The students also shared their interviews of attorneys in their own countries. These interviews complemented the students on-line chats with a well known holistic attorney who practices what is now called therapeutic jurisprudence. A number of students recognized the value of the discussions in giving them perspectives on how a good person can be a good attorney.

Students at Texas Tech deeply appreciated the opportunity to see law practice and legal ethics through the eyes of law students and attorneys in a former communist country with a civil law system. As explained by one student, I found the class very interesting because it made me think in ways that most law school classes do not require of you, and as opposed to just learning black-letter law, I learned some new and different perspectives. Through the experience students learned how lawyering and ethical decision-making is affected by cultural values, traditions, and economics. In their final reflection essays, many students noted how their e-mail partners shared similar views and values.

Interestingly, the email exchanges empowered students to engage in reflection and examination of their own views on moral responsibility of attorneys. In commenting on the class, one student noted that in other classes she was afraid to share her views because her opinions seemed different from other students. The student appreciated the way in which the class enabled her to express her feelings and opinions without being scrutinized by seventy other students. The student urged me to write an article about the collaborative legal ethics class, because it is important to bring gaps, not only across oceans, but across halls.

A Professor at the University of Vienna Law Faculty also requested that I write an article describing the collaborative legal ethics class. This article, published in an Austrian journal, has been distributed to European law professors who are starting to explore legal ethics offerings at their own law faculties.

Next year, I intend to offer the class including students from Texas and Slovenia, as well as Spanish students in my law school’s cooperative program at the Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Sevilla, Spain.

At my home institution, I will conduct weekly meetings with students. I will spend two to three weeks meeting with the Spanish and Slovenian students. While visiting the European law faculties, I will also lecture on the importance of including legal ethics in their curriculum. Members of the bench and bar will be invited to these lectures and some class sessions.


Program History:

The collaborative legal ethics course was first offered in 2001. As indicated above, next year it will be offered again with expanded coverage to include students from three different countries.

Over the years, I have received very positive feedback from students who participated in the program. One Slovenian student subsequently pursued graduate work at Harvard Law School. The student reported that the ethics course shaped his views on lawyering and legal education. The student has now returned to work at the Law Faculty at the University of Ljubljana Law Faculty in Slovenia. He is interested in assisting me as a Slovenian seminar partner and discussion leader.

The Slovenian law faculty and students deeply appreciated the new and creative approaches that I used in teaching the legal ethics class and introducing legal ethics as a curricular offering.. At a graduation ceremony, the administration of the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia awarded me a Nomisa Honoris (a medal) and a D.D.D Diploma.

My home institution has also recognized the value of the collaborative ethics class in building international understanding and deeper appreciation for the moral responsibility of attorneys. In 2002, the Texas Tech University Parents Association awarded me the Spencer Wells Award. This was a campus-wide award for the most valuable contribution to creative excellence in teaching.

Texas Tech Law School is dedicated to developing our international programs to give our students various opportunities to grow academically and personally. My course has enhanced and extended our international offerings and experiences.

I am told that my work has positive, long-term effect on the students. Those students who have taken the class have cultivated relationships that they will continue as they work as professionals in their respective communities.

I would be deeply honored to be the recipient of the Inaugural Award for Innnovation and Excellent in Teaching Professionalism. If I am selected, I would use the prize money to support the collaborative ethics class.


Confidential Items:


Expanded Program Description (Optional):


Supporting Materials:

1. “Is It Educational Malpractice Not to Teach Comparative Legal Ethics,” an article published in JURIDIKUM, an Austrian Law Journal.

2. Course description and syllabus

3. Letters from students and professors commenting on the collaborative ethics course.
--Bogataj letter
--Strus letter
--Kranjc letter
--Skrubej letter

4. CV including a listing of teaching awards and ethics/professionalism work.