What Legal Education Can Learn from Medical Education About Competency-Based Learning Outcomes Including Those Related to Professional Formation (Professionalism)

40 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2015 Last revised: 16 May 2016

See all articles by Neil W. Hamilton

Neil W. Hamilton

University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota)

Sarah Schaefer


Date Written: 2015


Following the American Bar Association’s August 2014 changes in the accreditation standards for law schools requiring the establishment (and assessment) of learning outcomes that include “competency” in knowledge of the law, legal analysis, legal research, problem-solving, effective communication and “the exercise of proper professional and ethical responsibilities,” every law school will now develop competency-based learning outcomes and a curriculum that help each student develop and be able to demonstrate both the listed core competencies and “other professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession.” These accreditation changes require a greater emphasis on professional and ethical responsibilities and both the articulation of learning outcomes for each student on these responsibilities and assessment of the learning outcomes.

Medical education, following accreditation changes in 1999 that emphasized learning outcomes (and assessment) of core competencies is fifteen years in front of legal education in learning how most effectively to help students achieve competency-based learning outcomes including those emphasizing ethical responsibilities. This article analyzes what legal education can learn from medical education’s experience over these past fifteen years with competency-based learning outcomes, especially ethical competencies.

While legal education has some experience with developing and assessing student competency in many of the core competencies required by the new standards, law schools historically have not emphasized learning outcomes (and assessment) relating to each student’s professional and ethical responsibilities to clients and the legal system beyond a standard curriculum relating to knowledge and analysis of the law of lawyering. Medical education has particularly useful experience to help legal education with learning outcomes related to student ethical development.

Keywords: legal profession, legal ethics, lawyer ethics, professionalism, professional competencies, legal education, American Bar Association, accreditation, law schools

Suggested Citation

Hamilton, Neil W. and Schaefer, Sarah, What Legal Education Can Learn from Medical Education About Competency-Based Learning Outcomes Including Those Related to Professional Formation (Professionalism) (2015). 29 Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics 399 (2016), U of St. Thomas (Minnesota) Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-15, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2643031

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

Sarah Schaefer


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