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Empirical Evidence that Legal Education Can Foster Student Professionalism/Professional Formation to Become an Effective Lawyer


Neil W. Hamilton


University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)

Verna Monson


University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) - University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis; Cultural Dynamics Consulting

Jerome M. Organ


University of St. Thomas - School of Law (Minnesota)

January 22, 2013

University of St. Thomas Law Journal, 2013, Forthcoming
U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-01

Abstract:     
Legal education should move toward much more effective educational engagements to foster each student’s professional formation and thus improve each student’s ultimate effectiveness as a lawyer. Part I reviews and analyzes the empirical evidence that convincingly points toward the importance of a law student’s or practicing lawyer’s capacities and skills of professional formation for legal employers and clients. Part II reviews and analyzes the empirical evidence about the most effective curriculum, culture and pedagogies to foster each student’s professional formation. Part III explains the professional formation curriculum, culture and pedagogies of University of St. Thomas School of Law (the empirical evidence in Part II aided in the design of this curriculum, culture, and pedagogy). Part IV analyzes empirical data demonstrating that the UST law students experience growth in moral development and professional formation over their three years of law school in a manner different from that which might be anticipated from law school generally.

The data from this study reasonably support the link between the overall UST Law educational program and an increase in both student moral reasoning and ethical professional identity. Our findings add to the research presented in Part II that education to foster professional formation must engage each student at the student’s current developmental stage. The UST Law curriculum, culture, and pedagogies reflect and incorporate the earlier research analyzed in Part II. Future studies will evaluate which specific elements of the curriculum, culture or pedagogies are most effective. The challenge at its core is to help each student internalize deep responsibilities both for others, especially the client, and for the student’s own development toward excellence at all the competencies that a practicing lawyer must have to fulfill his or her responsibilities for others.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 77

Keywords: professionalism, professional formation, legal education, moral development, moral judgment, DIT, moral identity, identity formation

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Date posted: January 22, 2013 ; Last revised: May 15, 2013

Suggested Citation

Hamilton, Neil W. and Monson, Verna and Organ, Jerome M., Empirical Evidence that Legal Education Can Foster Student Professionalism/Professional Formation to Become an Effective Lawyer (January 22, 2013). University of St. Thomas Law Journal, 2013, Forthcoming ; U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-01. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2205447

Contact Information

Neil W. Hamilton (Contact Author)
University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )
MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States
Verna Monson
University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) - University of St. Thomas, Minneapolis ( email )
Minneapolis, MN 55403
United States
Cultural Dynamics Consulting ( email )
55414
612 (Phone)
Jerome M. Organ
University of St. Thomas - School of Law (Minnesota) ( email )
MSL 400, 1000 La Salle Avenue
Minneapolis, MN Minnesota 55403-2005
United States

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