Questions of Professional Identity

Professor Jeffrey A. Brauch
by Professor Jeffrey A. Brauch

One of my great joys as a law professor is following the progress of some of my former students as they begin law practice and mature as lawyers.  I catch up with them at formal alumni events, but even more through phone conversations, social media, or informal chats in person.  We talk about life, family, and practice.  Alumni share joys and frustrations.  Sometimes they seek advice.

We almost never discuss substantive legal questions.  No one ever wants a refresher on removing cases from state to federal court.  No, our deepest and most meaningful conversations are about things like:

  • Balancing work and family life
  • Deciding whether to represent a particular client – or to withdraw from representation
  • While giving legal advice, sharing broader counsel about finances, family, faith, and life in general
  • Maintaining integrity while facing pressures to compromise or conform

In short, our conversations turn most often to questions of professional identity.  Sure, our alumni address substantive law questions.  They do it all of the time and are maturing in their ability to give excellent legal advice.  But the matters with which they often wrestle go to deeper issues about their purpose and role.

I am excited about this.  Our graduates aren’t simply trying to open and close files or even to run financially viable legal practices.  They desire to live lives of purpose and significance.  They want to make a difference.  They are serving their clients in a meaningful and holistic way.

All of this excites me about something else – Regent’s Center for Ethical Formation.  I’m thankful that our students aren’t confronting these deep questions about work, life, and character for the first time while in the heat of battle.  Through the work of the Center – and the mentorship of a supportive faculty – our students are trained to live and practice law with excellence, integrity, courage, and honor.  I am honored to be a part of that process.

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