The Major Transitions in Professional Formation and Development from Being a Student to Being a Lawyer Present Opportunities to Benefit the Students and the Law School
32 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2019
Date Written: 2019
Curricular support during the significant transitions each student experiences in law school will provide substantial benefits to students as well as the law school. What are the significant transitions? The distinction between the situational changes a law student experiences and the significant transitions of law school is important. During law school, each student experiences a number of situational changes like physically moving to a new city to attend law school or starting a new class or a new year of law school. A significant transition, however, is a psychological inner re-orientation and self-definition that the student must go through in order to incorporate the situational changes into a new understanding of professional life’s developmental process. This article will make clear that the major periods of inner re-orientation and self-definition for a law student are exceptional opportunities for the law faculty and staff to foster student growth toward later stages of the school’s learning outcomes. This benefits both each student and the law school itself.
The premise of this article is that each law student during law school, similar to each medical student during medical school, will also have significant transitions where the student is growing, step by step, from being a novice outsider with a stance of an observer ultimately to join a new community of practice as an insider to the profession. Unfortunately, there is very limited scholarship about the significant transitions each student must navigate in legal education. Part II of this article provides an analytical framework regarding the major transitions a law student must make to become a competent practicing lawyer. In Part III, the article provides data from law students starting the 2L year that identify the students’ perception of the major transitions from being a student to being a practicing lawyer in the 1L year and the summer between the 1L and 2L years. Part IV analyzes principles that should inform an effective curriculum to help students grow during the major transitions of law school. Part V applies the principles of an effective curriculum from Part IV to the specific transitions that the students identified as most important in Part III.
Keywords: law school, legal education, professional formation
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