Regent Law Launches "Making the Pledge" Initiative

On March 1, 2018, The Center for Ethical Formation and Legal Education Reform (CEFLER) and Law Career Services launched a new initiative called “Making the Pledge." In this program, Regent Law students are asked to pledge 50 hours of public service during their time at law school.

Students can sign up through Career Services and are asked to log their service hours online as well as have someone within the volunteer organization verify their hours.

Hon. Patricia L. West (ret.), Associate Dean of Career & Alumni Services, believes that Making the Pledge will both serve the needs of the community and challenge students. "Our commitment to community service underscores the mission of the Law School and University," said Judge West. "It also teaches students to apply theoretical academic knowledge to clients, which will better equip them for the bar exam, their future practice, and networking with legal professionals.”

With completion of the 50 hours, graduating students will receive a certificate from Career Services and acknowledgment in the Law Commissioning booklet.

CEFLER Co-Founder Ben Madison believes that the new initiative ties directly to CEFLER's mission as well. "Making the Pledge ties into the core of the values we seek to cultivate among our law students—the most central of which is service to others," said Madison. "We seek to cultivate a culture of service at our school and Making the Pledge is an avenue in which students can begin to see the difference they can make in the lives of others."


Cultivating Self-Directedness

On February 17, Professor Ben Madison traveled to St. Paul, Minnesota, to to attend a workshop hosted by the Holloran Center at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.  The workshop was designed to develop rubrics to help professors evaluate students’ progress in a variety of competencies related to professional identity. 

Professor Madison's working group, which includes Professor Hamilton of St. Thomas, Kendall Kerew and Nicolle Iannarone of Georgia State University College of Law, Ann Nowak of Touro Law School, Rupa Bhandari of Santa Clara University School of Law, and Susan Fine of George Washington School of Law, has been working on self-directedness. The group is developing rubrics on elements of self-directedness, which starts with self-awareness and a willingness to receive feedback.

“The work that the groups at this workshop is among the most cutting edge developments in legal education,” said Madison. “Dean Gantt and I are integrating some of the materials already in our schools first-year Foundations of Practice course.   The collaboration with other faculty seeking to help students develop professional competencies has been invaluable to our efforts.”

Other working groups at the workshop included ones on professionalism, cultural competence, integrity, and teamwork/collaboration.  Over the past year, these working groups have developed rubrics, benchmarks, and other teaching tools for professors who want to teach elements of professional identity training.  The purpose of the workshop was to allow participants to present their materials and receive feedback.  The working groups are now moving toward putting the materials in final form so that others may benefit from them.

Read more about self-directedness from the results of two surveys conducted by Natt Gantt and Ben Madison. Download the paper for free here >>


National Mentoring Month

This January marks the 17th annual National Mentoring Month, a campaign to promote youth mentoring in the United States.

President Donald Trump offered these words as he recognized the occasion: “In our youth, we must learn the behaviors and habits of successful adults, how to treat others, how to overcome failure, and how to give back to our communities.”

These ideas are similar to the goals of the Center for Ethical Formation and Legal Education Reform (CEFLER) Mentor Program. Since its inception in 2013, the program has promoted our students’ individual character formation and professional development through lasting relationships with lawyers and judges throughout the United States.

Our goal is that our law students will learn the behaviors and habits of successful attorneys, how to treat their clients and coworkers, how to deal with the unique challenges of living the life of an attorney, and how to give back to the community through pro-bono work. Being in a mentor relationship provides a special opportunity for our students to learn these traits by spending time with someone who has walked where they hope to walk.

We are thankful to every one of our mentors who take time to provide a practical aspect to complement the education Regent Law students receive in the classroom.

Learn more about the CEFLER Mentor Program at >


Job Shadowing

Marcus Mitchell
When Regent Law 1L Marcus Mitchell came to Rosey Mellion, Associate Director of Law School Career and Alumni Services, asking about how to get more knowledge about criminal defense work, Rosey had the perfect match. Mitchell was already externing with a local law office, and he wanted to pursue another opportunity to work with an attorney.

Rosey encouraged Marcus to contact Regent Law alum Stephen Pfeiffer (’07) to see if Marcus could “shadow” Stephen for a day. Job shadowing is a chance to experience a day in the life of an attorney who works in a field of interest. “I wanted to foster Marcus ‘enthusiasm to network and experience the practice of law outside of the classroom,” said Rosey, “and I believe that through their interaction, that Stephen’s reputation and success will be an added inspiration for Marcus. With his self-driven initiative, Marcus will leverage his network into an amazing career. ”

Stephen Pfeiffer is a partner at Wolcott Rivers and Gates, one of the most reputable and largest law firms in Virginia Beach. There, Stephen practices primarily in criminal defense on the state and federal levels, but he specializes in DUI defense, and is known by many as the “go-to lawyer” for DUI/DWI in his area. He was glad to help Marcus.

The two met one Friday morning, where Marcus saw Stephen go into action right away. “He got continuances on DUI cases, and then settled an assault and battery case between two parties.” But the third DUI case was what stood out to Marcus. “After watching some attorneys before him get their case shot down because they were unprepared for the judge's questions, [Stephen] was completely the opposite. He had multiple cases from the appellate level and had the appropriate statutes selected to answer the judge's questions without missing a beat. The prosecutor couldn't keep up; all of the charges were dismissed.”

Marcus had the opportunity to meet one of the judges, and after court, talk with Stephen about law school. Stephen shared about his experience at Regent and gave Marcus some tips and contacts to reach out too for additional shadowing experience.

“Overall, it was a great experience,” said Marcus. “I'm glad I had the opportunity to do it.”


Going Beyond Lectures

The problem with lecturing students (or lawyers) to "be civil" or "be honest" is that we expect people to follow an external ideal without reflecting on why such conduct is important to the person’s own value system.

The techniques we and other schools in the professional identity movement have developed avoid lecturing. Instead, we present students with a gray area legal scenario that includes conflicting, or at least tension between (1) the interests of the client, (2) the lawyer’s duty to the judicial system, and (3) the person (law student/lawyer’s) own interest in acting consistently with his or her moral compass. The most effective method we have found to foster true growth in students is to have them journal about the values in tension, include a description in the journal (or written paper) of conversations with a mentor who discusses the scenario with the student.  Ultimately, because in practice the lawyer has to make a choice, and the choice has consequences, we encourage students to outline the available courses of action and the consequences likely to flow from each course of action.  Presenting a vignette or skit followed by discussion can be effective too.  Typically, however, if students have the opportunity to consider the scenario and reflect on it, and to discuss it with a mentor, the experience leaves an impression on students and spurs them to growth.

Such reflection leads, at worst, to a decision that is at least a considered one and, at best, to a habit of acting ethically. It should be no surprise that a reflect-before-acting approach leads to better choices--and, ultimately, to more professional behavior.

The following video shows a skit that was performed at 1L orientation in August 2017 to present and discuss an ethical dilemma based on the real-life experience of Regent Law graduate.

The result of this process is usually the same as that promoted by the “professionalism” movement—the movement characterized by aspirational statements provided to students or lawyers as a “code” of conduct.   The difference, we believe, with the professional identity teaching model is that lawyers are more likely to act in line with professional values when they realize they are following principles in which they are invested.  They will also learn a method for resolving ethical scenarios in which values are in tension—and to realize there are almost always multiple courses of action, and that the course one pursues will have different consequences.   In that way, students can be encouraged to compare options and choose the approach most in line with their moral compass.  It goes without saying students would have to follow the Rules of Professional Conduct. We typically focus in professional identity teaching on those experiences in which lawyers have discretion, in which the Rules are silent, and/or in which the Rules sets a “floor,” but the lawyer can choose an approach that exceeds what the Rules require.

The challenge is to help students, each at different levels of sophistication in their ethical development, to grow as decision-makers guided by a sense of conscience. By pointing students to their internal values, the professional identity movement encourages ownership of one's decisions. Students learn that their decisions have consequences, not only for clients and others in the legal system but also for the students' own self-respect.

Download the rest of this article at


CEFLER Mentee Training 2017

On November 3, 2017, the Center for Ethical Formation and Legal Education Reform (CEFLER) held mentee training for 43 students who signed up to be matched with a lawyer or judge in their field.

Dean Natt Gantt and Professor Ben Madison, co-founders of CEFLER, discussed expectations of the program, how and how often to contact mentors, and what mentees should discuss with mentors at their first meeting. Students learned the characteristics of a successful mentee, mentor activity possibilities, and characteristics of a healthy mentor relationship.

Attorney David Johnson

Regent Law alumnus David Johnson ('04), the founder of Virginia Beach Law Group, spoke to the students next.  Law is a second career for Johnson (after retiring as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps). He shared with students what he wishes he'd known when he was in law school, and encouraged students to ask mentors what they wish they had known. Johnson commended the program, explaining that there is a natural mentor-mentee relationship that exists in law and law school is a great time to start those type of relationships.

3L Mentee Katie Malenowsky
3L Katie Malenowsky spoke to students about her mentee experience with a long-distance mentor in Montana.  Katie is from Montana and was thrilled to be matched with someone from her home. Katie shared her experience getting to know her mentor through email and phone, then being able to spend a day shadowing her mentor over Christmas break. Katie keeps in contact with her mentor through semesters and summertime and has had the opportunity to make additional connections and do research projects for her mentor. "The more you put into it, the more you're going to get out of it," she told students.

Lastly, CEFLER mentor program coordinator Diane Hess-Hernandez encouraged students to let the mentor-mentee relationship develop organically and to use the support at Regent Law if mentees have questions or any issues arise with trying to connect with a mentor.

At the end, students had an opportunity to ask questions of any of the speakers.


Update on ABA Model Rule 8.4 (g)

On October 26-29, 2017, Dean Natt Gantt took part in the 2017 Christian Legal Society National Conference in Newport Beach, California.

While at the conference, Dean Gantt delivered a CLE presentation on the ABA's new Model Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(g), adopted in August 2016 by the ABA's House of Delegates.  The comment period prior to adoption generated over 450 comment letters, most of which were opposed to the rule change.

The new rule, which has generated much debate, makes it professional misconduct for a lawyer to knowingly engage in harassment or discrimination in conduct related to the practice of law on the basis of eleven protected characteristics.

The rule states:
It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:
(g) engage in conduct that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law. This paragraph does not limit the ability of a lawyer to accept, decline or withdraw from a representation in accordance with Rule 1.16. This paragraph does not preclude legitimate advice or advocacy consistent with these Rules.

The full text of Rule 8.4 as amended is available here.

In the presentation, Dean Gantt explained the details of the adopted rule and associated comments and the ABA's rationale for the new rule as stated in the accompanying ABA report.  He then discussed how the rule poses concerns for attorneys’ First Amendment rights and how concerned attorneys should emphasize specific language from the rule and comments in order to protect those rights.  He also described the state reactions to the rule, specifically, that many states have considered adopting the rule but only one, Vermont, had done so as of October 2017.

The presentation sparked many questions and points of discussion among the attendees, many of whom expressed concern over how the rule might impinge upon attorneys' religious liberties.