Saint Louis University
Dennis J. Tuchler
Scott Hall 925
Dennis J. Tuchler
Professor Emeritus

When Dennis Tuchler poses a question in his Legal Profession course, students would be wise not to respond with an “I don’t know.”

“That’s an absolutely unacceptable answer,” Professor Tuchler says. “Students are not allowed to say that in my class. If they don’t have the ability to form an opinion and work from there, then they’re not going to know how to find their way through the normative thicket — legal or moral.”

Professor Tuchler has been challenging students in the classroom for more than 40 years. He encourages them to look beyond the technicalities of law — the discovery and application of rules — and to engage in at least some thinking about the consequences of pursuing a client’s interests. Do you discuss your moral limits with clients? Do you stand with your client even against your own sense of what is right?

“The easy answer to many of my questions is to say that if it’s legal it’s okay,” says Tuchler, “but that’s a terrible and frightening statement. The law does not describe fully the universe in which we live. There are other things in the social system — such as ethics — that tell us how people ought to behave toward one another.”

The complex nature of the subject matter and helping students master it makes teaching fun for Professor Tuchler. “It’s impossible to see all the variations in human conduct, so it’s impossible to have a legal world where all things are clear,” he says.

Most ethical and legal questions are fairly easy to answer, he says, but many, the ones in which the skill of a lawyer is needed, are not. “The best we can hope to do is train lawyers who act in the context of legal and moral uncertainty and find direction with the materials at hand.”

In addition to teaching Legal Profession, Professor Tuchler developed a program in legal ethics for first-year students. Following his lecture, students go into breakout sessions with practicing attorneys to discuss problems from an ethical standpoint.

Since joining the School of Law in 1965, Tuchler has taught courses in commercial transactions, administrative law, federal courts, municipal corporations, remedies, civil procedure, legislation and conflict of laws. His current scholarship explores whether there is a more efficient way of handling oral arguments in appellate cases than the system has now. He is also working on an article concerning the ethical limits to attorney/client discretion. His article, “Unavoidable Conflicts of Interest and the Duty of Loyalty,” won the 2000 Thompson & Mitchell Award for Outstanding Faculty Scholarship.