Integration of Professional Identity Formation into Law Courses

by Center founders, Regent Law Professor Natt Gantt and Associate Dean Benjamin Madison

If one chooses to make teaching professional identity a goal of one’s course, then the following are suggestions for effectively meeting this goal:
  1. Include professional identity formation as a course goal in the syllabus
  2. Within major course topics, include professional identity hypotheticals that challenge students to make a judgment involving values and professionalism. Encourage discussion of the hypotheticals in class. 
  3. Collaborate with colleagues who teach Professional Responsibility (PR). Tell students that you collaborate with your colleagues on professional formation topics, that they agree with your introducing students to professional questions as they arise in practice, and that your colleagues will cover such matters in more detail in PR. By discussing your hypotheticals with colleagues, you will get their insights and can avoid duplicating examples that they use. By telling students about your collaboration, they will appreciate that faculty consider professional conduct important enough to discuss and to plan how to teach students.
  4. Speak in terms students can understand. The language of PR is often abstract (“professional,” “ethical” conduct). Consider instead: “Do you realize that these decisions will determine whether you are comfortable in your own skin?” Or: “The seemingly small decisions a lawyer makes will, if the lawyer does not consciously resolve how to act in light of her values, lead one to think less of herself and the legal profession.”
Although you may not be responsible for teaching the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, you can introduce this source as an important one for students to rely on in developing a philosophy of lawyering. The ABA standards reflect the values of the profession, not just one professor’s values. Thus, you can disabuse any student of the notion that you are trying to inculcate them into your value system. They are learning the legal system’s value system—a system that offers a framework for resolving professional challenges.

Read more ideas on integrating professional identity formation into other law classes at

1 comment:

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