John W. Dean, Nixon White House Counsel
James Robanalt, Partner, Thompson Hine
Forty years ago, John Dean was a 34-year-old lawyer faced with an ethical dilemma that set a historic precedent for the legal profession. As White House counsel, Dean learned that five men had been arrested for breaking into the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel. In the ensuing cover-up of the crime, Dean felt he had few choices beyond his obligation to the administration. Ultimately, he testified against President Nixon, who eventually resigned the presidency as a result of the scandal, and turned in the names of other officials he believed had been involved in the obstruction of justice—himself included. Many of the names on the list were lawyers, which brought to light the question of how those who practice law could be better equipped to defend their ethics and expose wrongdoing, rather than become a part of it.
Watergate’s legacy directly led to reform in the legal profession, including the mandatory teaching of ethics in law schools, a separate ethics bar exam, and ongoing requirements for Continuing Legal Education in ethics and professionalism.
Dean, who spent four months in prison for his role in the scandal, will address Watergate as a case study to examine cover-up crimes and activities and analyze them under post-Watergate ethical rules and standards.
Cleveland attorney James Robenalt, a partner in the firm Thompson Hine, developed the program along with Dean, and will be a co-presenter.
In addition to the public program, Dean will be on campus throughout the day to share his experience with students and faculty at the law school.
“It is important that law students understand the historic implications of Watergate,” said C|M|LAW Dean Craig M. Boise. “We educate future lawyers to live their lives in justice, and through the ethics teaching that began after Watergate, we now help them build the highest level of professional integrity.”
The event is sponsored by Thompson Hine.