The St. Thomas Effect

35 Pages Posted: 25 Jul 2006

Date Written: July 2006


Can a law school substantially affect the ethical, moral and professional identity of the lawyers that it graduates? How can the effect of law school training and experience on graduates be defined and measured? Should this kind of professional and moral shaping be the responsibility of law schools generally? How can law schools determine what kind of lawyers they want to produce? This article uses the recent creation of the University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) School of Law as a case study of the "mission-driven" law school. When the University of St. Thomas considered opening a new law school, it answered the many critics who saw no need for another school turning out more lawyers by declaring its intent to create a different kind of lawyer. This article attempts to define what kind of lawyer the University of St. Thomas intends to create, to identify means of detecting and measuring the characteristics that would distinguish such a lawyer, and to lay out a research process for determining if the "St. Thomas effect" indeed exists. The article argues that law schools can have a tremendous effect on the moral and professional identity of their graduates, and that it is essential for law schools to become more thoughtful and intentional about the kind of lawyers that they graduate.

Keywords: Law School, legal education, professional morality, ethics and lawyering, morality and lawyering, professionalism

Suggested Citation

Wright, Jennifer L., The St. Thomas Effect (July 2006). U of St. Thomas Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-26, Available at SSRN: or

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