Professionalism and Professional Identity: A Discussion with Dean Madison and Professor Gantt

by Daniel Rouleau ('17)
Clerk, Phi Alpha Delta, Washington Chapter

Professor L.O. Natt Gantt, II and Associate Dean Benjamin Madison
On January 27, 2016, Center Director Natt Gantt and Regent Law Associate Dean Benjamin Madison, founders of CEFLER, had the opportunity to speak to students on the topic of professionalism and professional identity.  The talk was hosted by the Washington chapter of Phi Alpha Delta (PAD), the largest co-ed professional law fraternity in the United States.

Professor Gantt began by discussing the differences between professionalism and professional identify. His research showed the deficit of ethical formation currently present in legal education. Although law schools have focused more on practical skills rather than simple doctrinal knowledge, most schools fail to focus on the formation of a professional identity that can be adopted to guide young lawyers in the ethical dilemmas present in the practice of law. Prof. Gantt noted the shift in thinking that often occurs in law students: although most enter with internal motivations such as a desire to change the system or do justice, law students leave law schools externally motivated by power and pecuniary gains. Following the presentation, Prof. Gantt pushed back on assertions that application of ethics was applied differently to law practice compared to other professions, and challenged the students to consider the application of ethics and a personal, professional identity in all aspects of life.

Dean Madison followed Prof. Gantt’s discussion with a “scenario” to operationalize the concepts discussed by Prof. Gantt. The scenario involved Al Aggressive, an experienced attorney who was set on the legal warpath for his important client, and Ivan Inexperienced, a new attorney who was not fully prepared for Al’s onslaught. Al took advantage of Ivan’s inexperience, and Ivan failed to fully prepare and show competence in his representation. The scenario highlighted ethical dilemmas presented to new attorneys first engaging opposition and experienced attorneys who are presented with opportunities for unfair advantages. Dean Madison emphasized the importance of following your conscience when practicing law, and that ignoring the still, small voice of wisdom can lead to ethical errors.

“No other people at Regent Law put more thought and work into the ethical, academic, and professional development of the student body than Dean Madison and Professor Gantt,” said a 2L who attended the talk.  "Prof. Gantt and Dean Madison's presentation of ethical and professional development was educational, but also engaging and relevant."

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