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One Year Later: An Update on One Law School’s Faculty-Approved Implementation Plan

By: Dawn Figueiras, Assistant Professor of Law, Associate General Counsel, Chair of the Curriculum Committee, Appalachian School of Law

A year ago, the Curriculum Committee of Appalachian School of Law (ASL) was diligently creating an Implementation Plan for complying with the ABA’s revised Standards 303(b) and (c).  After adoption by ASL’s Faculty on August 16, 2022, the Plan was published in the first post of the Holloran Center Professional Identity Implementation Blog.  One year later, we report on our progress.

Our Implementation Plan, to be deployed in academic year 2023-2024, included retention of several existing aspects of ASL’s curriculum, including administration of the Professionalism Oath to incoming students during orientation and participation in an Externship placement during the summer following 1L year with journaling to document experiences and self-reflections.  Additions to ASL’s program included a new “Professionalism, Leadership, and Transition to Practice” (PLT) program designed, respectively, for 1L, 2L, and 3L students. Programs already scheduled for the upcoming Fall semester include a two-day visit by Virginia State Bar President Chidi James and a joint visit by executives of the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association and Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys who will conduct talks with 1Ls about professionalism and with 2Ls about leadership.

The Implementation Plan included re-working ASL’s 1L “Introduction to Community Service” course into “Building a Professional Identity,” which would focus on professional identity development, well-being, and incorporating community service/pro bono service into a law career.  This new course will be included as a required 1L course beginning Fall semester, 2023.

One aspect of ASL’s Plan proved more difficult to implement.  A visit to a federal court during/near orientation hasn’t been accomplished yet.  But even though ASL couldn’t bring the students to a court, we brought a court to the students! In April 2023, ASL hosted a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit for oral arguments, comprised of then-Chief Judge Roger Gregory, Judge Albert Diaz (now Chief Judge), and Judge Stephanie Thacker.[1]  ASL students watched attorneys argue two civil cases and one criminal case before the panel, and had several opportunities for interaction with the judges and their clerks.  Spring semester, 2024, will see ASL hosting the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims for oral arguments, dinner with students and faculty, and a networking social event with the judges and their clerks.

ASL’s Implementation Plan called for faculty to incorporate aspects of revised Standard 303(b) and (c) into their courses whenever possible.  ASL conducted a curriculum survey[2] of all full-time and adjunct faculty at the conclusion of Spring semester, 2023, for all courses taught during the 2022-2023 academic year.  This survey included specific questions about the inclusion of activities, discussions, and exercises that provided opportunities related to revised Standard 303(b) (“to engage in thoughtful self-reflection on the development of a professional identity that utilizes the student’s unique aptitudes and capacities” or “PIF”) and 303(c) (“demonstrating the ability to effectively build professional relationships across racial and cultural differences and to engage in culturally competent interactions” or “cross-cultural competency”).

Of the fourteen required 1L courses, 50% reported already incorporating PIF elements (including Intentional Torts and Criminal Law), and 43% reported already incorporating cross-cultural competency elements (such as Introduction to Externships and Legal Process II).  66% of the six required 2L courses incorporated PIF (e.g., Constitutional Law II and Criminal Procedure) and 33% incorporated cross-cultural competency elements (including Constitutional Law I and Professional Responsibility).  Of the three required 3L bar preparation courses, 66% incorporated PIF elements but none incorporated cross-cultural competency elements.  The Implementation Plan anticipated that several elective courses would incorporate PIF and/or cross-cultural competency elements, but the survey revealed higher results than expected.  Of the 40 elective courses surveyed, 24 courses (60%) incorporated PIF elements (such as Administrative Law; Conflicts; and Employment Law) and another 24 courses (60%) incorporated cross-cultural competency (e.g., Poverty, Health & Law; Marijuana Law; and Information Privacy Law); 23 courses incorporated both (including Family Law; Sentencing; and History of Race & the Law).  Notably, of the eleven elective experiential learning courses, ten (91%) incorporated PIF (such as Criminal Practice and The Law of Starting a New Business) and nine (82%) incorporated cross-cultural competency (e.g., Estate Planning and Trial Advocacy).

Even before the full deployment of its Implementation Plan, ASL “provid[ed both] substantial opportunities to students for the development of a professional identity” and also “education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism.” ASL is pleased with its progress on meeting revised ABA Standard 303, and looks forward to fine-tuning and fully-employing its Implementation Plan for even greater integration of PIF and cross-cultural competency into its J.D. program.

Should you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the implementation of ASL’s plan, then please contact me at dfigueiras@asl.edu.

[1] See https://www.ca4.uscourts.gov/oral-argument/oral-argument-calendar/earlier-court-terms.

[2] This Curriculum Mapping Survey was primarily designed to gauge how ASL is meeting its Learning Outcomes and secondarily to assess the curriculum’s readiness for the NextGen Bar Exam.

Dawn Figueiras is an Assistant Professor of Law, the Associate General Counsel, and Chair of the Curriculum Committee at Appalachian School of Law.

Dawn Figueiras

One Law School’s Faculty-Approved Implementation Plan for Complying with the ABA’s Revised Standards 303(b) and 303(c)

The American Bar Association (ABA) requires that all law schools develop a plan in the fall of 2022 regarding how schools will implement in the fall of 2023 the revised ABA standards 303(b) and 303(c) that cover professional identity formation and bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism. Appalachian School of Law (ASL) tasked its Curriculum Committee to draft a proposed plan for compliance with the revised standards. The Committee, chaired by Professor Dawn Figueiras, included the Honorable Larry G. Elder, Professor Jeremy Hurley, Associate Dean of Students Shelly James, Dean of Experiential Learning Lucy McGee, Professor Ken Russell, Chief Academic Officer Laura Wilson, and President & Dean Keith Faulkner. The committee spent the summer discussing what ASL already does in these spaces and how ASL would utilize those efforts, along with new ones, to create a proposed plan for the faculty to review. Professor Figueiras participated in webinars sponsored by AALS, SUNY-University at Buffalo School of Law, and others, and gratefully utilized the resources links compiled and hosted on the Buffalo School of Law website. On August 8-9, 2022, at ASL’s Faculty Retreat, the Committee presented its plan to the faculty and engaged in productive discussions to revise the plan. Although the ABA did not set a date for completion of the plan, the full Faculty unanimously adopted the Implementation Plan below on August 16, 2022.

The following is the IMPLEMENTATION PLAN FOR REVISED ABA STANDARD 303’s REQUIREMENTS approved by the ASL faculty.

ADOPTED ASL Implementation Plan for Revised Standard 303 2022-08-16 (003)

A.  Revised 303(b)(3)—“provide substantial opportunities to students for . . . the development of a professional identity.”

  1. Orientation: Administration of the “Professionalism Oath” by a Virginia Supreme Court Justice or Court of Appeals Judge. The Professionalism Oath is modeled after the oath given to new members of the Virginia State Bar about their professional duties and responsibilities; students take the Oath after being sworn and sign the Oath as well.

    Students take the Professionalism Oath at ASL

  2. During Orientation/early during 1L year: Organize a visit to a Court, preferably a federal court; give students opportunities for reflection on their experience.
  3.  Fall Semester, 1L year: Revise “Introduction to Community Service” course to incorporate at least three lectures/sessions about concepts of professionalism and professional identity formation. Rename course: “Building a Professional Identity.
    a. Possible examples of topics may include: What kind of lawyer do I want to be? What character/personality strengths do I possess and what does that mean for my career choices? How do I conduct myself in a professional manner? How do I incorporate community service and pro bono service into my career?
  4. Spring Semester, 1L year: Lecture series for 1Ls (3 events) involving professionalism and/or professional identity formation. This would be incorporated as part of the Dean’s new “Professionalism, Leadership, and Transition to Practice” (“PLT”) program.
  5. Summer after 1L year: Students participate in an Externship placement and keep a journal documenting their experiences and self-reflections.
  6. 2L year: The PLT program will incorporate four formal sessions on leadership; at least one session will discuss and encourage leadership within the legal profession.
  7. Annually: Professionalism Dinner event (part of PLT program). Select a bar leader to receive a Professionalism Award from ASL. Invite attorneys and judges to attend, with professors, to engage in discussion with students regarding professionalism/ethical issues.

B.  New 303(c)—“provide education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism … at the start of the program … and at least once again before graduation.” “For students engaged in law clinics or field placements, the second educational occasion will take place before, concurrently with, or as part of their enrollment in clinical or field placement courses.”

  1. Orientation: Lecture/session by ASL Diversity Mentor Virginia Supreme Court Justice Cleo Powell. (Fulfills the requirement for one educational experience at the start of the J.D. program)
  2. Spring Semester, 1L year: Incorporate into the required “Introduction to Externships” course at least one mandatory session on bias, cross-cultural competency, and/or racism. (Fulfills the requirement for a second educational experience prior to/concurrently with externships and other field placements.)
  3. Spring Semester, 2L year: Incorporate into the required “Professional Responsibility” course at least one mandatory session on bias, cross-cultural competency, and/or racism.
  4. 3L year: The Professionalism, Leadership, and Transition to Practice (“PLT”) program will include six sessions on Transition to Practice; at least one session will incorporate discussion of issues involving bias/cross-cultural competency/racism that arise in legal practice.
  5. Curriculum-wide: Encourage all faculty to incorporate discussions of racism/cross-cultural competency/bias into their courses, wherever the regular course of study offers such an opportunity. The subject matter should be documented in the Course Description and in the Course’s Syllabus by the professor.
  6. Elective Courses: Offer electives with a significant component addressing bias, cross-cultural competency, and/or racism. Elective courses will outline in their Course Descriptions/Syllabi how bias, cross-cultural competency, and/or racism are addressed in the course. Currently, ASL offers “History of Race and the Law” (co-taught by the Hon. Larry Elder and adjunct Professor and ASL Diversity Mentor Chris Young) as a general elective in both Fall and Spring semesters, and “Poverty, Health, and the Law” (taught by Dean of Experiential Learning

    Professor Chris Young

    Lucy McGee as a general elective in Fall and Spring semesters as well as summer sessions. This course is a pre-requisite for student participation in ASL’s Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic. The Clinic is a joint project of Ballad Health Systems, ASL, and Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business.



Should you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the plan, then please contact Professor Dawn Figueiras at dfigueiras@asl.edu.

Guest Contributor Professor Dawn Figueiras