Developing Your Professional Identity: Creating Your Inner Lawyer

by E. Scott Fruehwald

Available on Amazon.  Sample chapter here.

Who will I be as a lawyer? This is the most important question any law student can ask. Yet, in traditional legal education, this question rarely comes up. The purpose of this book is to change this. Professional identity is a lawyer’s personal legal morality, values, decision-making process, and self-consciousness in relation to the practices of the legal profession (legal culture). It provides the framework that a lawyer uses to make all a lawyer’s decisions. This book takes a variety of approaches to help you develop your professional identity. Chapter One asks you to take a close look at yourself by asking questions about your childhood, your college years, and who you are today. It is important to know who you are before you can fit into a profession. Chapters Two (Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner), Six (Overcoming Cognitive Biases), and Seven (Attorney Well-Being) give you the tools you will need to develop your professional identity. Chapter Two introduces you to “practical wisdom,” an important approach to understanding and solving ethical problems. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 deal with professional identity within certain topics–the attorney-client relationship, the lawyer and society, and attorney advertising and solicitation of clients. Chapter Eight presents the legal profession’s and society’s views on lawyers and the legal profession. Chapter Nine focuses on your role as a lawyer. It asks you what area of law you want to practice, how you will deal with clients, your place in the legal profession, standards of civility in the legal profession, and working with subordinates. Finally, Chapter Ten contains a variety of extended problems to help you further develop your professional identity.


Chapter Summary

Table of Contents

Dedication                                                                          
     Preface                                                                                
1.  Your Personal Identity                                                    
2.  Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner                            
3.  The Attorney-Client Relationship                                
4.  The Lawyer and Society                                                 
5.  Attorney Advertising and Solicitation of Clients      
6.  Overcoming Cognitive Biases                                       
7.  Attorney Well-Being                                       
8.  The Legal Profession and Society                                   
9.  My Role in the Legal Profession                                   
10.  Advanced Problems                                     
       Conclusion

Chapter One

Chapter One: Your Personal Identity

The purpose of this chapter is to help students uncover their personal identities.  It is important that a professional knows herself before she can determine how she fits into a profession.

I ask the students to look at their childhoods, college years, and who they are today through a series of reflective questions and exercises.  I also ask them to rate themselves on their personality and character traits.  I have included extended problems concerning how they would handle common moral problems, such as what to do if a friend is in trouble or the morality of cheating.

Chapter Two

Chapter Two (Becoming a Self-Regulated Learner) is a key chapter in my book because it gives students the tools they need to develop their professional identities.  Previously, law students have learned legal ethics by memorizing rules, reading cases, and applying the law to facts.  In other words, they learned legal ethics just like they learned torts, property, and criminal law.  This is not the way to instill professional identity into adult learners.

This chapter's purpose is to help students become self-regulated learners so that they can learn on their own and think deeply about ethical dilemmas.  This chapter begins with a general section on self-regulated learning, then it covers more specific topics–reflection, evaluation, and self-monitoring, the growth mindset, self-motivation, how learning occurs, curiosity, active listening, and practical wisdom.

Drawing on general education scholarship, the general part tells students how to become engaged learners, and it gives them a method on how to become a self-regulated learner.  I then explain reflection, evaluation, and self-monitoring and show how these are important to deep learning.  Next, I tell students how they can change to a growth mindset and increase their motivation.  The following section explains how learning occurs so that students will see the importance of following my book's approach.  I also emphasize the importance of curiosity to becoming a self-regulated learner and the need to be an active listener.

The chapter ends with a method for problem-solving ethical and moral problems--practical wisdom.  In brief, the method is “(1) balancing competing values with empathy and detachment, (2) considering the variable courses of action and the consequences to others from each option, and (3) resolving the question in a way that is the best alternative in the circumstances."  (Benjamin V. Madison III, The Emperor has No Clothes but Does Anyone Really Care? How Law Schools are Failing to Develop Students’ Professional Identities and Practical Reasoning, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2414015, at *43 (2014))

Chapters Three, Four, and Five

Chapter Three: The Attorney-Client Relationship

Chapter Four: The Lawyer and Society

Chpater Five: Attorney Advertising and Solicitation of Clients

These chapters help students devlop their professional identities within certain topics–the attorney-client relationship, the lawyer and society, and attorney advertising and solicitation of clients.  These chapters also help them to continue to develop the ability to use practical wisdom.

Chapters Six and Seven

Chapter Six: Overcoming Cognitive Biases

Chapter Seven: Attorney Well-Being

Chapters Six and Seven of my book give students additional tools they need to develop their professional identities and to operate in the legal world.

Drawing on the seminal work of Daniel Kahneman, Chapter Six helps law students recognize cognitive biases in themselves and others.  Not only does it present the ideas of key cognitive scientists on this subject, it includes exercises to help students recognize cognitive biases.

Chapter Seven encompasses attorney well-being.  Dealing with our mental problems is obviously an important part of developing one’s professional identity.  Attorney well-being is also important to clients and the general public because it affects how lawyers deliver their services.  Attorney well-being is essential to competence.

Using ideas of Lawrence Krieger and Kennon Sheldon, this chapter discusses the latest research on attorney well-being and includes exercises to help students examine and improve their well-being.

Chapter Eight

Chapter Eight: The Legal Profession and Society

This chapter's purpose is to help students understand how the legal profession views itself and how society views the legal profession.  It takes a unique pedagogical approach to teaching students about the legal profession: it presents quotes about lawyers and the legal system then asks students to reflect on those quotes.

Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine: My Role in the Legal Profession

This chapter's purpose is to help students discover their role in the legal profession.  It includes sections on

What Area of Law Do I Want to Practice?

My Clients

My Place in the Legal Profession

Standards of Civility

Dealing with Subordinates

As with most of the other chapters, I develop the students professional identities in this chapter mainly though reflection questions and problem solving exercises.

The chapter ends with a discussion of an important part of practical wisdom--moral courage.

Chapter Ten

Chapter Ten: Advanced Problems

This chapter’s purpose is to help students continue to develop their professional identities with advanced problems.  Its subjects include conflicts of interest, withdrawal of counsel,  subordinate attorneys, attorney-client privilege, confidential information, etc.

It also introduces students to role playing, think-aloud exercises, and transfer exercises.  It ends with a practical wisdom problem.

Practical Wisdom

At the end of Chapter Two of my book, I give my readers a method of solving ethical and moral problems--practical wisdom.  “Practical reason [wisdom] is the general human capacity for resolving, through reflection, the question of what one is to do.”  (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Practical Reason http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/practical-reason/)  I use a three-part test I have borrowed from Professor Benjamin Madison: “(1) balancing competing values with empathy and detachment, (2) considering the variable courses of action and the consequences to others from each option, and (3) resolving the question in a way that is the best alternative in the circumstances." (Benjamin V. Madison III, The Emperor has No Clothes but Does Anyone Really Care? How Law Schools are Failing to Develop Students’ Professional Identities and Practical Reasoning, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2414015, at *43 (2014))  I also discuss James Rest's four capacities for making ethical actions: 1) moral sensitivity, 2) moral judgment, 3) moral motivation, and 4) moral implementation.  (James R. Rest, Background Theory and Research in Moral Development of the Professions: Psychology and Applied Ethics 1, 22–25 (James R. Rest & Darcia Narvaez eds., 1994)  In this chapter, I fully explain these concepts, and I give the students reflection questions and exercises on practical wisdom.

At the end of each of the other chapters in my book, I develop a particular aspect of practical reasoning, including how to deal with ethical problems with detachment, how to deal with ethical problems with empathy, how to choose alternatives,  moral sensitivity, and moral implementation.  By dealing with practical wisdom throughout my book, I think I have given students a way to effectively evaluate and solve ethical problems.

Wrap Up

Michael Hunter Schwartz has written the following in his introductions to the innovative Context and Practice series from Carolina Academic Press:

"The problems with tradition law school instruction begin with the textbooks law teachers use.  Law professors cannot implement Educating Lawyers and Best Practices using texts designed for the traditional model of legal educationMoreover, even though our understanding of how people learn has grown exponentially in the last 100 years, no law school text to date even purports to have been designed with educational research in mind."

What Dean Schwartz has said about law textbooks in general applies even more strongly to the teaching of legal ethics.  Teaching the rules and how to apply the rules is not enough.  Law schools need to help their students develop their professional identities.  Law professors must help students understand who they are, what the legal profession involves, and how they can fit into this profession.  While this journey requires that students understand the ethical rules, it also requires that they learn to how make difficult judgments that affect themselves, other people, and society.  To do this, law students need to able to look within themselves.  This is why my book consists mostly of reflection and problem-solving exercises.

It was a pleasure writing this book, and I hope that students benefit from my book.


Legal Professional Identity: Bibliography

E. Scott Fruehwald, Developing Law Students' Professional Identities, 37 U. La Verne L. Rev. 1 (2015).

Michael J. Cedrone, The Developmental Path of the Lawyer, 41 Cap. U. L. Rev. 779 (2013).

Roberto L. Corrada & David Thomson, Report on the 2012 Conference and Introduction to the 2013 Conference: The Development of Professional Identity in Legal Education: Rethinking Learning and Assessment, at *2 (Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers 2013).

Susan Swaim Daicoff, Lawyer, Form Thyself: Professional Formation Startegies in Legal Eduication,  Through "Soft Skills" Training, Ethics, and Experiential Courses, 27 Regent U. L. Rev. 205 (2015).

Daisy Hurst Floyd, Practical Wisdom: Reimagining Legal Education, 10 U. St. Thomas L.J. 195, 196 (2013).

Timothy W. Floyd, Moral Vision, Moral Courage, and the Formation of the Lawyer’s Professional Identity, Miss. C. L. Rev. 339 (2009).

Neil Hamilton, A Professional Formation/Professionalism Challenge: Many Students Need Help with Their Self-Directed Learning Concerning Their Professional Development Toward Excellence, 27 Regent U. L. Rev. 226 (2015).

Neil W. Hamilton & Verna Monson, Legal Education’s Ethical Challenge: Empirical Research on How Most Effectively to Foster Each Students Professional Formation (Professionalism), 9 St. Thomas L. Rev. 325, 335-36 (2011).

Martin J. Katz, Teaching Professional Identity in Law School, 42 The Colorado Lawyer45 (October 2013).

Alison Donahue Kehner & Mary Ann Robinson, Mission: Impossible, Mission Accomplished or Mission: Underway? A Survey and Analysis of Current Trends in Professionalism Education in American Law Schools, 38 U. Dayton L. Rev. 57 (2012).

Patrick E. Longan, Teaching Professionalism, 60 Mercer L. Rev. 659 (2008).

Benjamin V. Madison, III & Larry O. Natt Gantt, II, The Emperor Has No Clothes, But Does Anyone Really Care? How Law Schools are Failing to Develop Students' Professional Identity and Practical Judgment, 27 Regent U. L. Rev. 341 (2015).

Robin Wellford Slocum, An Inconvenient Truth: The Need to Educate Emotionally Competetnt Lawyers, 45 Creighton L. Rev. 827, 829 (2012).

Barry Sullivan & Ellen S. Podgor, Respect, Responsibility, and the Virtue of Introspection: An Essay on Professionalism in the Law School Environment, 15 N.D.J. Law, Ethics, & Pub. Pol’cy 117 (2001).

David I. C. Thomson, "Teaching" Formation of Professional Identity, 27 Regent U. L. Rev. 303 (2015).

Other Works

Amy Baernstein & Kathy A. Stepien, Educating for Empathy, 21 . Gen. Intern. Med. 524, 524 (2006).

Robert B. Barr & John Tagg, From Teaching to Learning–A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education, 27 Change 12 (Nov./Dec. 1995).

Muriel J. Bebeau & Verna E. Monson, Guided by Theory, Grounded in Evidence: A Way Forward for Professional Ethics Education, in Handbook of Moral and Character Education 562 (Larry P. Nucci & Darcia Narvaez eds, 2008).

John Caldron & Robin Smith, Active Location in Teachers' Construction of Their Professional Identities, 31 J. Curriculum Studies 711, 712-13 (1999).

Richard L. Cruess & Sylvia R. Cruess, Commentary: Teaching Professionalism: General Principles, 28/3 Medical Teacher 205, 207 (2006).

Diane F. Halpern, Teaching Critical Thinking for Transfer across Domains: Dispositions, Skills, Structure Training, and Metacognitive Monitoring, 53 Am. Psych. 449, 452 (1998).

James R. Rust, Background Theory and Research in Moral Development of the Professions: Psychology and Applied Ethics 1, 22–25 (James R. Rest & Darcia Narvaez eds., 1994).

Barry Schwartz & Kenneth Sharpe, Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing 85 (2010).

William M. Sullivan et.al., Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law 28-33 (2007).

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