UCL Faculty of Laws


Professor Richard Moorhead is lead author of academic paper highlighted by Jotwell

30 January 2017

Professor Richard Moorhead, Professor of Law and Professional Ethics and Vice Dean (Research) at UCL Laws and the UCL Centre for Ethics and Laws, has had a paper that he was lead author on highlighted by Jotwell, where legal scholars identify and celebrate the latest work of their colleagues.

‘The Ethical Identity of Law Students’, originally published in the International Journal of the Legal Profession in October 2016, was discussed on Jotwell by Dr Francesca Bartlett, of The University of Queensland. Dr Bartlett covered the themes of the paper which looked at the ethical and professional identity of law students and said:

‘The results could inspire us to think more about the impact and potential of the student body we are educating, and what they bring to the ethical conversation’.

About the paper:

Richard Moorhead, Catrina Denvir, Rachel Cahill-O’Callaghan, Maryam Kouchaki & Stephen Galoob (2016): The ethical identity of law students, International Journal of the Legal Profession, DOI: 10.1080/09695958.2016.1231462


This paper uses measures of values, moral outlook and professional identity to explore the ethical and professional identity of law students. We do so in two jurisdictions, surveying 441 students studying in England and Wales and 569 students studying in the US.

The survey covers the first and final years of an undergraduate law degree and the postgraduate vocational stage in England and Wales, as well as students in all years of the JD programme in the US. We explore whether law students towards the end of their legal education have ethical identities predictive of less ethical conduct than those at the beginning of their legal education; whether law students intending careers in business law have values and profiles consistent with less ethical conduct than those intending to work for government or individuals; and what factors might explain these differences in ethical outlook. Our findings suggest that ethical identity is strongly associated with gender and career intentions. They also suggest weaker moral identities for students intending to practise business law.

Ultimately, our findings support a conclusion that is more nuanced than the predominant theses about the impact of legal education on student ethicality which tend to suggest legal education diminishes ethicality