Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Details

C. E. Sharp, '‘Represent a murderer… I’d never do that!’ How students use stories to link ethical development and identity construction' in M. Robertson, L. Corbin, K. Tranter & F. Bartlett(ed), The Ethics Project in Legal Education (2011) 33-51.


As active viewers of legal popular culture, law students are constantly interpreting, transforming and producing meaning in relation to the images and stories presented in fiction. They are using this process not only to make sense of the law, but also to analyse and reflect on their personal values in light of their understandings. They are then transforming these into projections (both professional and personal) of the path that lies ahead. In this way, first-year law students are on a transformative journey. I have argued previously that, during this transformative time at law school, students use images of lawyers on television to identify with what they perceive to be positive and negative aspects of lawyering, and that part of the students’ developing legal identity is a recognition that to be a lawyer requires ethical considerations. By actively engaging in the (re)interpretation of law stories as played out on the small screen, students antithetically show both a lack of ethical knowledge and a substantial capacity for ethical reflection. The challenge for legal educators is to harness this ability for ethical self-reflection in teaching legal ethics. Certainly, the body of literature surrounding ethical legal education is increasing rapidly, and is staunchly concerned with the best methods for teaching legal ethics. This chapter suggests that one starting point may be to first acknowledge that when students articulate and discuss the stories of law that are told on fictional television, they simultaneously give themselves the chance to critically evaluate what it is they value and believe.