Course Description


There are three original versions of the Watergate program: Watergate I, II and III.

A fourth program, Nixon's Court, explores Nixon's appointments to the Supreme Court.

The newest program, From the Nixon White House to Trump Tower, looks at Executive Power, Supreme Court appointments, and the backstory of Roe v. Wade.

Each seminar can be tailored to meet your seminar needs. The programs are scalable from one, two or three-hour CLEs. 

John Dean appears live. The programs include select clips from White House Tapes and historic video from the Senate hearings and the Frost/Nixon interviews.


President Richard Nixon leans forward in his chair as he talks with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger about the Middle East crisis during their meeting at the White House in Washington on Monday, Oct. 8, 1973. (AP Photo/Harvey George)

Monday, Oct. 8, 1973. (AP Photo/Harvey George)


From the Nixon White House to Trump Tower  A Look At Executive Power, the Appointment of Supreme Court Justices, and the Backstory of Roe v. Wade

This is a three-hour ethics CLE program.

This program takes its inspiration from Justice David Souter's campaign to emphasize the teaching of civics and the role of lawyers as public citizens.  Click here for more.

The Preamble to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Section 6,  provides our guidance: "As a public citizen, a lawyer should seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession. As a member of a learned profession, a lawyer should cultivate knowledge of the law beyond its use for clients, employ that knowledge in reform of the law and work to strengthen legal education. In addition, a lawyer should further the public's understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system because legal institutions in a constitutional democracy depend on popular participation and support to maintain their authority."  Click here for more.

The first hour explores the role of lawyer as public citizen and guardian of the Constitution, with a look generally at Executive Power, Article II.  Click here for more.

The second hour explores Article II's nomination and appointment clause for Supreme Court Judges and takes a deep dive into President Nixon's appointment of four justices in his first term: Justices Burger, Blackmun, Powell and Rehnquist. Two would serve as Chief Justice of the United States (Burger and Rehnquist) and dominate the Court for 36 years. John Dean, as White House Counsel, vetted Supreme Court candidates and wrote the book, The Rehnquist Choice. This segment makes heavy use of the Nixon Tapes. Especially enlightening was Nixon's attempt to put the first woman on the Court.  Click here for more.

The third hour focuses on the backstory to Roe v Wade, again in the news as President Trump promised to appoint justices who would overturn Roe. Nixon appointed the justices most responsible for Roe's ultimate outcome -- Powell and Blackmun. Click here for more. 


Earlier Programs

Watergate I  The Week Following the Break-In

Who Is The Client? Reporting Up.

This seminar follows John Dean from the moment he returns to the United States from a trip to the Far East on Sunday, June 18, 1972, until Friday, June 23, 1972.


During the week following his return, John will act in his role as White House counsel gathering facts from the main actors in the drama. He will learn about past crimes for the Committee to Re-Elect and the White House and of nascent discussions of the need to pay the men in jail to attempt to contain the investigation.

By week’s end, John Mitchell, through John Dean, would recommend that the President ask the CIA to “turn off” the FBI investigation to the extent it might uncover CIA operations in Mexico, where some CRP campaign checks originated.  This recommendation was expanded by Bob Haldeman, Nixon’s Chief of Staff, in a conversation in the Oval Office with the President that was recorded on Friday, June 23, 1972. 


The recording of this conversation would become known as the “smoking gun” tape when it was finally released two years later after the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Nixon, leading directly to the president’s resignation in August 1974.

The course covers the ethics of an attorney representing an organization using Dean’s example as the case study—focusing on Model Rules 1.13 (Organization as Client) and Rule 1.6 (The Duty of Confidentiality).

Watergate II  The “Cancer on the Presidency”

Reporting Up Under Model Rule 1.13

As a follow-up to the first seminar, Watergate II takes participants from the slide into conspiracy and obstruction of justice to the moment of realization by Dean that he and others had crossed the line of legality and that he needed to warn the President of the pending disaster that to come if the conspiracy was not ended.

Richard Nixon won a landslide victory in November, 1972.


But the triumph left Hunt and his incarcerated conspirators anxious lest they be forgotten as their cases raced towards trial in January 1973. 

A recorded conversation between Hunt and Colson in late November—which Colson passed on to Dean—was the turning point for Dean in his recognition that he and others had become deeply ensnared in the ongoing obstruction of justice.


When his wife was killed in a plane accident in December 1972, Watergate mastermind Howard Hunt increased his demands for money and issued a request for a promise of presidential clemency if he and others pled guilty in the break-in trial.

By March, with sentencing for the Watergate defendants looming, and with Hunt sending more ominous and threatening messages to the White House, Dean decides it is time to “lay it all out” for the president in his now famous “cancer on the presidency” talk with Nixon, which was recorded in the Oval Office on March 21, 1973.  The tape (listen here: starts 5 minutes in) takes center stage in the seminar. March 21,1973 - Cancer on the Presidency Transcript.

Watergate II focuses further on the ethics of representation of an organization and the “report up” and “report out” requirements of Model Rule 1.13.  The seminar also explores the ethical duties of an attorney who becomes entangled in client wrongdoing, whether deliberately or unwittingly.


Watergate III  Breaking Rank 

Reporting Out Under Model Rule 1.13

Watergate III takes the story to its next step.  As lawyer for the organization, what are the duties and obligations if a report up to the highest authority within an organization has failed and crime or fraud continue?  Rule 1.13 of the Code of Professional Conduct (the “Model Rules”) provides that the lawyer may “report out” what the lawyer knows, regardless of the duty of confidentiality imposed by Rule 1.6. 

And the lawyer’s duties become even more complicated if the lawyer has participated, knowingly or not, in the wrongdoing that gives rise to the reporting obligation.  How then does the lawyer extricate himself or herself?  When is resignation enough?  When does a lawyer need to engage in a “noisy” withdrawal?

In Watergate III, the story picks up after Dean’s March 21, 1973 warning and moves the story through its dramatic twists and turns, as Dean hires a lawyer, meets with prosecutors and eventually Senate investigators, and ultimately breaks with the president. 

JWD, testifying

He then becomes the target of the administration and somehow navigates through treacherous waters to safe harbor, ending the cover-up. 

The seminar uses White House Tapes and relies on the encyclopedic work done by Dean in his most recent, best-selling book, The Nixon Defense, What He Knew and When He Knew It.  The seminar is a must for those interested in crisis management and high stakes negotiation.


Nixon's Court  Vetting Supreme Court Candidates, the Burger and Rehnquist Courts, and Roe v. Wade

This is a version of the new program From the Nixon White House to Trump Tower, only exclusively focused on the nomination and appointment of Supreme Court justices and the backstory of Roe v Wade.

Richard Nixon appointed four Supreme Court Justices--Warren Burger, Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist.

Two would become Chief Justice of the United States: Burger and Rehnquist. Together, these two men served and dominated the Court for 36 years, undoubtedly one of Nixon's most enduring legacies. 

Burger and Blackmun

Two of the Justices, Blackmun and Powell, would shape one of the foremost opinions in the history of the Court: Roe v Wade.

Powell and Rehnquist

John Dean helped to vet Supreme Court candidates as White House counsel, including Mildred Lillie--the first woman to be considered for the Court. He wrote about these experiences in The Rehnquist Choice: The Untold Story of the Nixon Appointment That Redefined the Supreme Court. 

Hour One: This seminar looks at the Burger and Blackmun appointments (1969-1970) in its first segment--which includes an analysis of the Fortas failed nomination by LBJ and the Senate filibuster.

Hour Two: In the second segment, we turn to  the appointments of Powell and Rehnquist after Justices Black and Harlan suddenly retired due to illness in September 1971. Nixon considered appointing a woman and Chief Justice Burger threatened resignation. All caught on White House Tapes.

Hour Three: The seminar concludes with a behind-the-scenes look at how Roe v Wade was decided, as explored by Jim Robenalt in his new book, January 1973, Watergate, Roe v Wade, Vietnam, and the Month That Changed America Forever.

Abortion 3

abortion 1

Course Materials


Watergate I Bibliography

Watergate II Bibliography

Ethics Memos

Watergate I Ethics Memo

Watergate II Ethics Memo

Other Documents

ABA - Upjohn Warnings

March 21,1973 - Cancer on the Presidency Transcript