By: David A. Grenardo, Professor of Law and Associate Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas School of Law
Professor Benjamin V. Madison III, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Professional Formation at Regent University School of Law, authored a pretrial practice casebook, Civil Procedure for All States: A Context and Practice Casebook, which was one of the first casebooks that explicitly and intentionally incorporated professional identity formation as recommended by the Carnegie Institute study Educating Lawyers (2007). Madison presented at the University of St. Thomas Law Journal’s spring 2023 symposium, which brought together 1L and Professional Responsibility casebook authors to discuss how they infuse professional identity formation into the required curriculum. Madison’s latest article, An Unexpected Synergy: How Integrating Professional Identity Formation Exercises in a Civil Procedure Course Not Only Help Students Form a Professional Identity but Also Enhance Their Understanding of Civil Procedure, will be part of that symposium’s issue.
Here is the abstract of the article:
This article demonstrates that integrating professional identity formation exercises in a required course accomplishes multiple goals. The Carnegie report stated, “[l]egal analysis alone is only a partial foundation for developing professional competence and identity.” The report was clear that only the formation of values and the ability to exercise moral judgment would allow students to practice as true professionals. Both first-year and advanced civil procedure courses feature professional identity formation exercises. They present dilemmas litigators face, particularly ones that the Model Rules of Professional Conduct do not answer.
The article describes how the effectiveness of the exercises improved depending on how the professor assigned them. When students read the exercises and discussed them in class, along with cases and other reading, students showed less engagement in the complexity of moral and ethical questions. Conversely, when students wrote reflection papers on the exercises due before the class discussion, they displayed greater discernment than when students did not write reflections. After writing about the exercise, more students recognized that reflective lawyers balance multiple interests and the lawyer’s values in resolving an ethical/moral challenge. The examples explored in the article, as representative of the type of exercises, include various issues that arise in handling a civil suit. The sample exercises include a choice-of-forum decision, a client’s request to serve a defendant in a specific manner, and two discovery scenarios. The first discovery scenario depicts a lawyer deciding whether to set a trial and other deadlines later than necessary and how that affects the client, not to mention the lawyer’s financial gain if on a billable hour engagement. The second discovery example demonstrates efforts to use excessive production of documents to increase the chance that the discovering party misses key documents.
The benefits of the exercises were two-fold. As a routine, graded part of the course, students gained an appreciation for moral and ethical judgments not answered by the Model Rules. The courses’ learning objectives state that by engaging in the exercises, students would develop a professional identity that includes values and a moral compass that will answer questions not addressed by the Model Rules. Therefore, students cultivate values, a moral compass, and the ability to resolve dilemmas they will likely face in practice. An additional benefit was the improved grasp of the rules and doctrines connected to the scenarios. Although intended to promote professional identity development, the exercises also reinforced knowledge of the rules and doctrines that formed the context for the exercises. Hence, students learned these rules and doctrines better than if the exercise were left out.
A link to the article can be found here.
Should you have any questions or comments about the article, please feel free to contact Professor Madison at firstname.lastname@example.org.