Resource Highlight: A Book on Professional Identity by Scott Fruehwald

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What I Learned from Writing My Book on Professional Identity
by Scott Fruehwald

The editors of this blog have asked me to write about the lessons I learned while writing my book, Developing Your Professional Identity: Creating Your Inner Lawyer (2015).
First, a text on developing professional identity must begin by having students examine who they are today and how they got there.  A person must understand who she is before she can develop a professional identity.
Second, exercises for developing professional identity must cause students to reflect deeply on who they are, what the legal profession is, and how they will fit into the legal profession.  Students must learn to exercise practical wisdom–the “capacity for resolving, through reflection, the question of what one is to do.”  (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Practical Reason).  Developing this skill involves doing reflection questions and problem-solving exercises.  It also involves being able to look at problems through the viewpoints of others.
Third, students must become self-regulated learners.  They need to be able to learn on their own and have an enthusiasm for learning.  They must not be afraid of making mistakes because much learning comes from making mistakes.  Professionals must become life-long learners.
Fourth, students must understand cognitive biases in themselves and others.  If lawyers fail to understand that the human thinking process is imperfect, they will being doing a disservice to themselves and to their clients.*
Fifth, students must learn to deal with their own well-being.  Attorney well-being is essential for competence.
Sixth, an attorney’s greatest duty is service to others.  Being a lawyer is a profession, and society has given those in this profession many benefits.  However, with benefits come duties, and a lawyer must never forget those duties.
Seventh, law professors should not teach law students an ideology; we must teach students to think for themselves.  If we teach them correctly, they will do the right thing.
Probably the most important thing I learned in writing this book is that professional identity cannot be taught in the way that professional responsibility has been traditionally taught–through learning rules and applying those rules to facts.  We must help students create “foundational frameworks for making moral judgments,” rather than just giving them the minimum or scaring them into behaving by showing them the consequences of breaking the rules. (Bebeau & Monson, Guided by Theory, Grounded in Evidence 564 (2008)).  Being a professional involves the inner self.
Contact Dr. Fruehwald at


Read more on professional responsibility by Associate Dean Ben Madison and Center Director L.O. Natt Gantt:

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