The Phantom Menace to Professional Identity Formation and Law School Success: Imposter Syndrome

14 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2021 Last revised: 3 Aug 2022

See all articles by David Grenardo

David Grenardo

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

Date Written: August 4, 2021


Professional identity formation, which involves teaching law students to recognize their responsibility to others, particularly clients, and encouraging the students to develop the professional competencies of a practicing lawyer, has gained considerable prominence in the legal academy. Professional identity formation relies on students to identify the professional competencies they excel in currently and the competencies in which they need to improve, and they must work to develop those competencies. Part of that process requires an accurate self-understanding of who law students are. The imposter syndrome serves as a sinister force that threatens a law student’s ability to develop her professional identity and to succeed as a lawyer. The pervasiveness and negative effects of the imposter syndrome warrant that law schools who incorporate professional identity formation into their curriculum, as well as any law school that wants its students to succeed, should address imposter syndrome with its students. Part I of this Article briefly discusses professional identity and how it requires self-reflection and self-awareness. Part II explains imposter syndrome in general, and Part III examines imposter syndrome and its prevalence in the legal profession. Part IV provides practical, tangible ways for law schools, professors, and law students to address imposter syndrome. This Article concludes that law schools, regardless of whether professional identity formation is a part of their curriculum yet, should help those law students facing imposter syndrome overcome it.

Keywords: first-generation, equity, inclusion, diversity, gender, race, solutions for imposter syndrome, law school curriculum, law student success, legal profession, aba standards, professional formation, practice of law, legal pedagogy, imposter syndrome, professional identity, imposter syndrome

Suggested Citation

Grenardo, David, The Phantom Menace to Professional Identity Formation and Law School Success: Imposter Syndrome (August 4, 2021). University of Dayton Law Review, Vol. 47 U. Dayton L. Rev. 369 (2022), Available at SSRN: or

David Grenardo (Contact Author)

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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