Bringing Purposefulness to the American Law School's Support of Professional Identity Formation
25 Pages Posted: 31 May 2017 Last revised: 23 Jun 2018
Date Written: May 31, 2017
Ten years after the publication of Educating Lawyers, a growing number of American law schools are taking initiative to better support their students in the formation of professional identity. There is widespread recognition that success in these efforts requires an element of “purposefulness” on the part of law faculty and staff. Experiences, environments, and pedagogies that actually work for professional identity formation must be crafted and promoted with intentionality. Bringing the requisite purposefulness to the effort, however, will take a mindset about the education of a lawyer that will be new to many in legal education. This article explores that mindset and the habits of the mind that will best serve law schools as they move forward in this area. Schools need not abandon prevailing approaches to the cognitive and skills dimensions of a law student’s education that Educating Lawyers called the first and second apprenticeships, respectively. But when it comes to the third apprenticeship of professional identity and sense of purpose, a reorientation in thinking about law students, their law school, and the educational process is necessary. That change in the way of thinking can be invigorating and empowering, revealing opportunities with time, talent, space, and experiences that have been underexplored by American legal education.
Keywords: law schools, legal education, professional identity, law students
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