Legal Education Reform – The Challenge of Carnegie’s Recommendation for More Pervasive 'Professional Identity Formation' and Success with Student Journaling
2 Pages Posted: 4 May 2012 Last revised: 15 Sep 2015
Date Written: May 4, 2012
Blog Entry on method of having students use journals (part of class grade) to assist them in the process of forming their professional identity -- one of the three key reforms suggested by the Carnegie Institute for the Advancement of Education's EDUCATING LAWYERS. By providing students with questions in a course on handling a civil lawsuit that raised questions that arise regularly in practice, and asking them to journal about how they would deal with the questions, students developed a reflective approach to such issues. The professor intentionally designed the questions so that they would not clearly violate minimum ethical standards, but rather fell in a gray area in which a person's values could lead them to act in a manner beyond the minimum standards. For instance, litigation offers lawyers the opportunity to seek every advantage on an opponent, even ones that are in the nature of "sharp" practices, such as producing more documents than necessary because the more important document could be missed among thousands of irrelevant documents. Students were encouraged to identify whether any Rule of Professional Conduct applied (usually, not clearly), and then to identify the values they saw implicated in the question. They were then asked to reach a resolution. Students were not graded on whether their values matched those of the professor, but rather on whether they sincerely reflected on how they could make decisions in a more reflective manner.
The piece summarizes some of the professors findings in having used the above method for two years as a test for whether it would be an effective way to teach professional identity formation. The blog notes some of the ways in which students' views evolved over the semester and safeguards they suggested could help them in practice.
Keywords: Professional Identity Formation, Carnegie Report, Educating Lawyers, Legal Pedagogy, Ethics, Innovative Teaching Techniques
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