MSU's Kelly Ethics Institute sponsoring program on future role of attorneys general

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan will speak on "New Directions in Ethics: the Attorney General's Changing Role in the 21st Century" on Sept. 13 at MSU's College of law.

The lecture is sponsored by the Frank J. Kelly Institute of Ethics and Legal Profession of Michigan State University College of Law. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 10:30 a.m. at MSU Wharton Center's Pasant Theatre.

"We think that it is appropriate for Madigan to be coming to Michigan State because the Kelly Institute is named after Frank J. Kelly who was the longest serving attorney general in Michigan and was known for being a forward thinker," said Professor Renee Newman Knake, recently selected co-director of the Kelly Institute.

"And we see her as similarly forward thinker in her own work and the directions she's taken." s

The lecture is for all, however, Knake noted that the focus for the law students attending will be to think about how practicing lawyers resolve ethical dilemmas in their everyday practice.

She believes that "locally practicing lawyers" would also be interested and might find helpful the "lessons that might be drawn from AG Madigan's presentation."

The September lecture is just one of the ways that the Kelly Institute's Co-directors Knake and Professor Hannah Brenner plan to expand the Kelly Institute's reach to include a more comprehensive focus on education about legal ethics at the local, state, national, and international levels.

When asked to identify areas in which the legal profession has improved but additional work is needed, the professors pointed to two main topics: gender equality in the profession and ethics education for law students.

Knake said, "both my co-director and I focus part of our academic writing and research on trying to articulate, identify and figure out how to move beyond the more subtle yet pervasive kind of discimination (against women) that still continues."

Both professors strongly agree that, while women enter the legal profession in numbers relatively equal to men, they remain significantly underrepresented in major leadership roles.

They are planning a symposium on "Gender and the Legal Profession's Pipeline to Power," hosted by MSU Law Review that will take place in the Spring of 2012.

Although all U.S. law schools now incorporate some sort of legal ethics education into their curriculum, Knake points out that ethics is a primary focus at MSU Law. "Our students begin their first semester of law school with a required course on lawyers and ethics, continue to explore this issue in upper-level courses, and deepen their understanding of the topic through additional learning opportunities such as the Institute's annual lecture."

Joan Howarth, dean of the MSU College of Law, is proud of the school's commitment to preparing students for the heavy responsibilities that come with a Juris Doctor degree.

"At MSU College of Law, ethics is at the center of our education," she notes.

"It's not an add-on, it's not secondary, it's absolutely central."

For more information on the upcoming lecture, visit

The Frank J. Kelly Institute

of Ethics and the

Legal Profession

The Frank J. Kelley Institute of Ethics and the Legal Profession at Michigan State University College of Law addresses issues of ethics and the legal profession through teaching, research, and outreach programs.

Named for Frank J. Kelley, the Institute began with the creation of an annual lecture series in 2009.

The inaugural lecture was delivered by Professor David Wilkins, Vice Dean, Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession, Director, Program on the Legal Profession and Lester Kissel Professor of Law at Harvard Law School.

Under the new leadership of Professors Hannah Brenner and Renee Newman Knake, appointed as co-directors in April, 2011, the Kelley Institute is poised to grow into a more comprehensive initiative that will focus on education about ethics and the legal profession at the local/state level, nationally, and internationally.

Hannah Brenner joined the Law College in 2009. She is a lecturer in Law. Brenner graduated from University of Iowa College of Law in 1998 and earned her B.A. at University of Iowa.

Renee Newman Knake joined the Law College in 2006. She is an associate professor. She received her J. D. from University of Chicago Law School.

Published: Thu, Sep 1, 2011