Jerome Organ – Holloran Center Professional Identity Implementation Blog
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Barbara Glesner FInes, David Grenardo, Felicia Hamilton, Jerome Organ, Kendall Kerew, Louis Bilionis, Neil Hamilton

Welcoming the new year with gratitude: Holloran Center Resolutions for 2024

By: Barbara Glesner Fines, Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law, UMKC School of Law

What better time to reflect on professional identity formation than the new year, when so many of us are making resolutions for growth and improvement.  Here are three of our resolutions for the Holloran Center’s continued formation:

  1. We resolve to be grateful.  We are grateful for the leadership of Tom Holloran, whose example of servant leadership inspires us. We are grateful for the work of scholars and teachers in other professions who have given us so many insights and inspiration. We are especially grateful to you, our colleagues engaged in this work of coaching, mentoring, and guiding our students in their transformation from student to lawyer.
  2. We resolve to listen.  This past year, we have learned so much from the questions and critiques posed by our colleagues.  What do we really mean by formation? How is it different from the knowledge and skills transfer we aim to teach and provide? How do we assess development?  How do or should concepts of professionalism and civility fit into professional identity? What about this idea of “identity”?  How does that singular-sounding noun reconcile with our diverse cultures and values as individuals and communities? How do we ensure that the work of formation is shared and equitably by our entire community? Our understanding of our work has evolved with each question and challenge.
  3. We resolve to share. Since 2013, over 400 scholars, teachers, and student services professionals from over 60 law schools have attended a Professional Identity Formation workshop or conference or symposium sponsored by the Holloran Center. We look forward to hosting at least three additional workshops in 2024: a conference for professional responsibility scholars and teachers in April, along with two summer workshops.  We will continue to support others leading in this effort. We are also working to develop our online community: revising our databases of materials and inventories, and growing our blog and listserv.  Let us know how we can help.

Happy New Year!

Neil, Jerry, David, Lou, Barb, Kendall, and Felicia

 

Barbara Glesner FInes, David Grenardo, Jerome Organ, Louis Bilionis, Neil Hamilton

Standard 303 and the Development of Student Professional Identity: A Framework for the Intentional Exploration of the Profession’s Core Values

 

By Felicia Hamilton, Holloran Center Coordinator

Holloran Center Directors Neil Hamilton, Jerry Organ, and David Grenardo, along with Holloran Center Fellows Barbara Glesner Fines and Louis Bilionis recently co-authored an article that supplies a framework for understanding the core values of the legal profession. The authors’ intention is to guide legal educators into a thoughtful exploration of the nature of these values, and to encourage law school faculty and staff to make intentional choices around how their programs highlight them. Using the metaphor of a tree, the authors address the core values of the “trunk” (a sense of responsibility to those whom the professional serves and the commitment to professional development) and the “branch” values as codified into the Model Rules.

Read more in the abstract for “Standard 303 and the Development of Student Professional Identity: A Framework for the Intentional Exploration of the Profession’s Core Values” below:

Legal educators, following the change in ABA accreditation Standard 303(b)(3)[1], must face directly the question “what are the core values of the legal profession?” This article offers a framework both to help faculty and staff clarify their thinking on what are the profession’s core values and to spotlight the choices law schools need to consider in purposeful fashion.

The framework offered here should also help allay two concerns that faculty, staff, and students may have about core values of the profession.  One concern is that all statements of values are subjective in the sense that they are expressions of individual subjective preferences, beliefs, and attitudes.[2]  A second concern is that statements of values tend to privilege the traditional, and hence fail to reflect the diversity of the profession and the experience and views of marginalized members of the profession – particularly with respect to the elimination of bias, discrimination, and racism.[3]

On the first concern, the article analyzes first the core values of all the service professions to point out two core values foundational to all of them. The article then analyzes the legal profession’s core values articulated in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, adopted with some variation by all fifty states. The fifty-state adoption of the Model Rules indicates a strong consensus on the core values of the profession.  On the second concern, the values framework offered here makes clear that elimination of bias, discrimination, and racism is among the profession’s core values, and that the profession should, on an ongoing basis, seek feedback widely regarding its core values, particularly from marginalized groups, and reflect on the feedback.

Part II outlines the ABA accreditation Standard 303 changes that require each law school to help students develop a professional identity through the intentional exploration of the values of the profession. This means the faculty and staff need to discern the values of the profession they want the students to explore.  Part III analyzes what is a professional identity?  Part IV provides a framework to help legal educators clarify their thinking about the profession’s core values.  The framework features some widely shared fundamental values for all the service professions, and locates also values particular to the legal profession. Part V explores how the core values of the profession in part IV connect to “successful legal practice.”  Part VI discusses cautionary arguments that traditional values like those in the Model Rules can privilege some groups and fail to account for the experiences and viewpoints of marginalized groups.

[1] Standards & Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, Standard 303(b)(3) (Am. Bar Ass’n 2023), [hereinafter Accreditation Standards], https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_education_and_admissions_to_the_bar/standards/2023-2024/23-24-standards-ch3.pdf.

[2] See, e.g., Joseph Singer, Normative Methods for Lawyers, 56 U.C.L.A. L. Rev. 899, 902-911 (2009).

[3] See discussion in Part VI of this article.

You can download the article from SSRN here.

Neil Hamilton is the Holloran Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minnesota.

Jerome Organ is the Bakken Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law

David Grenardo is a Professor of Law and Associate Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

Barbara Glesner Fines is the Dean and Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

Louis Bilionis is the Dean Emeritus and Droege Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

Felicia Hamilton, Jerome Organ

“We’re Always Shaping People”: Podcast Interview with Jerry Organ, Co-Director of the Holloran Center

By: Felicia Hamilton, Holloran Center Coordinator

Jerry Organ, Bakken Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas School of Law

Our very own Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership, Jerry Organ, was recently featured on the Legal Docket segment of the podcast The World and Everything in It: September 11, 2023 Episode. Legal correspondent Jenny Rough speaks with Organ, along with hosts Mary Reichard and Nick Eicher, about the revision to Standard 303(b), which encourages law schools to provide opportunities for the development of a student’s professional identity.

In the interview, Organ emphasizes the importance of identity formation in a career that is focused on serving others:

Law school… [is] about developing a specialized knowledge base and a specialized set of skills that are directed toward serving others. So, part of professional school really is a shift from a kind of a self-focus to now acquiring knowledge, acquiring skills. I’m going to shift from being a student absorbing information to a lawyer who’s now serving others.” [1]

He also highlights the need for law students to have the opportunity to discover and test out their professional interests along with the importance of being able to process those experiences with a faculty mentor or advisor, noting that at the start of second and third years of law school there is a rich opportunity to help students process their summer experience and then plan for next steps on their journey.

Organ also speaks to the importance of having courses like St. Thomas’s Serving Clients Well intensive, which highlights communication and relationship skills and encourages students to focus on client service and to act in accordance with their values.

According to Organ, law schools arealways shaping people. We just have tended not to be very thoughtful about it. And what this new movement is really talking about is trying to help us as law professors and people involved in legal education be more intentional about what it is we want to be communicating to our students about what it means to be a lawyer.”

Listen to the full podcast episode and read the transcription here! The interview can be heard starting at 08:45.

[1] Rough, Jenny. “Legal Docket: Law and service.” The World and Everything in It, World News Group, September 11, 2023, https://wng.org/podcasts/legal-docket-law-and-service-1694291807.

Jerome Organ is the Bakken Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law

Felicia Hamilton is the Coordinator for the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.

Janet Stearns, Jerome Organ

Well-Being and Professional Identity: Inextricably Linked

By: Janet Stearns, Dean of Students, University of Miami School of Law
Jerry Organ, Bakken Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas School of Law

Well-being and professional identity are inextricably linked. While this has been true through the ages, the new articulation of professional identity in Interpretation 303-5 embodies this linkage when it states:

Professional identity focuses on what it means to be a lawyer and the special obligations lawyers have to their clients and society. The development of professional identity should involve an intentional exploration of the values, guiding principles, and well-being practices considered foundational to successful legal practice.

In earlier posts for this Blog, Dean Stearns has spoken of infusing law school orientation with lessons about well-being, activities for the October 10 Mental Health Day, and two new important books that can be used to educate law students about mindfulness and stress reduction.

Much of our teaching and advocacy involves explaining these principles of “well-being practices” and integrating these into the law school curriculum and larger professional identity environment. The needs are great. The news is filled with too many stories of suicide. The students who are now entering our law schools have faced significant isolation and related depression and anxiety through these recent pandemic years.

The best snapshot of the state of our law students today is the national survey published in the University of Louisville Law Review Symposium under the title “It Is OK To Not Be OK”: The 2021 Survey of Law Student Well-Being (Summer, 2022). The authors of this study were David Jaffe (Washington College of Law, American University), Professor Kate Bender (Bridgewater University), and Jerry Organ (University of St. Thomas, MN), and the work includes an analysis of data from 39 law schools across the country. The 2021 Survey showed that the percentage of respondents who had a diagnosis of anxiety in their lifetime increased from 21% to 40% since the original Survey of Law Student Well-Being in 2014. Similarly, the percentage of respondents who had a diagnosis of depression in their lifetime increased from 18% to 33% since 2014. Roughly one-third of the 2021 respondents had considered suicide sometime in their life (up from 20% in 2014) with 11% having considered suicide in the previous 12 months (up from 6% in 2014). The 2021 Survey also found that five in six respondents had experienced trauma, with one in five dealing with challenges to their day-to-day thriving associated with their experience of trauma (based on responses to the PCL-5, a screening tool for PTSD).

The data continues to be evaluated but the high levels of reported depression, anxiety, suicidality, and trauma should give us all pause.

One of the most critical lessons that we can teach in law school is the ability to reach out and access needed resources. Professional identify includes our ability to address needed self-care while balancing duties to clients and the profession. Tragically, many law students believe that they cannot access these resources, and in fact some believe that their admission to the bar will be jeopardized if they access resources. We teach these life-saving lessons in the classroom and when we respond to students in crisis. Dean Stearns has received calls and emails from students who are en route to an emergency room to ask if their bar admission will be impacted if they are admitted for mental health treatment.

Janet Stearns, David Jaffe, and other national well-being advocates have been working for years to reform state character and fitness investigation processes to ensure that students understand their ability to access essential resources; their efforts have seen some success with a number of states amending their questions. The most recent article on the topic by Stearns and Jaffe is Fixing a Broken Character Evaluation Process, which was published online in the ABA’s Law Practice Today in May of 2023. The article evaluated the mental health and substance use questions in the various jurisdictions and assigned grades to the states (and NCBE) on the basis of our rubric. The more a state’s questions focused primarily on conduct than condition, the higher the grade it received – an A was the highest grade available; and the more a state’s questions focused on condition instead of conduct, the lower the grade it received – an F was the lowest grade available. We continue to advocate for questions that will focus on conduct rather than condition, with a goal of destigmatizing efforts for law students to seek appropriate help and support for these challenges.

This month, Jerry Organ added a new and significant dimension to this advocacy. He analyzed two questions in the 2021 survey, separated law school responses by state, and then correlated those to the grades that Stearns and Jaffe had assigned in the ABA article.[i] The two critical questions were:

C15: Percentage who strongly agree or agree to the following statements (by year in law school)

If I had an alcohol or drug use problem, my chances of getting admitted to the bar are better if I hide the problem rather than seek treatment.

D21:  Percentage who strongly agree or agree with each of the following statements (by year in law school)

If I had a mental health problem, my chances of getting admitted to the bar are better if I hide the problem rather than seeking treatment.

Jerry Organ’s analysis determined the following:

The overall averages for “better off keeping problems hidden” (reluctant to seek help) were 49.8% (substance use) and 39.9% (mental health).

Schools in A/B jurisdictions had average scores for “better off keeping problems hidden”(reluctant to seek help) of 47.5 (substance use) and 37.3 (mental health).

Schools in C jurisdictions (including Virginia) had average scores for “better off keeping problems hidden” (reluctant to seek help) of 51.8 (substance use) and 42.6 (mental health).

Schools in F jurisdictions (Georgia/Florida/Nevada) had average scores for “better off keeping problems hidden” (reluctant to seek help) of 55.9 and 47.1.

These data suggest that there is a correlation between the type of state character and fitness questions and the reluctance to seek help among law students. The states that focused their character and fitness questions more on conduct rather than on condition have lower percentages of students who believe they are better off keeping problems hidden for substance use and mental health. And the states that focused their character and fitness questions more on condition instead of conduct have higher percentages of students who believe they are better off keeping problems hidden for substance use and mental health. The more than 8-point spread between A/B and F states on substance use and the nearly 10-point spread between A/B and F states on mental health strongly suggests that a relationship exists between the nature of a state’s character and fitness questions and a law student’s reluctance to seek help.

Law schools and boards of law examiners have to continue to message the importance of help-seeking so that the percentages of respondents who believe they are better off keeping problems hidden begins to decline. On this front, efforts in Minnesota and North Dakota are noteworthy. Respondents from law schools in those two states were among the lowest in terms of the percentage who believed their chances of being admitted to the bar were better if they kept a substance use or mental health problem hidden. In both states, the law schools have worked closely with their board of law examiners to facilitate messaging in the first year of law school about the importance of seeking help. Those efforts seem to be bearing fruit.

For all of us who care deeply about professional identity education, we must continue to understand the inextricable link between our work and ensuring the well-being of the next generation of our profession.

The authors welcome comments and input. You may connect with them at jstearns@law.miami.edu or JMORGAN@stthomas.edu. If you live in a state that has not yet reformed the substance use and mental health questions on the bar, then please contact Janet Stearns or David Jaffe (djaffe@wcl.american.edu) for strategies and advocacy resources.

[i] The only exception to the grading system was that Virginia, which Stearns and Jaffe assigned a B-, was included in the “C” category.

Janet Stearns is Dean of Students at the University of Miami School of Law and Chair of the ABA COLAP Law School Committee.

Jerome Organ is the Bakken Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law

 

Jerome Organ

Student “Nastygrams” and the “Whole Building” Approach to Professional Identity Formation

By: Jerome Organ, Bakken Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, University of St. Thomas School of Law

A few weeks ago, there was a conversation on the NALSAP (National Association of Law Student Affairs Professionals) listserv regarding “nastygrams” – emails from students to administrators that reflect a very unprofessional tone.

I mention this to highlight one of the key foundational concepts surrounding professional identity formation of law students – the reality that it is a “whole building” effort.  This set of messages highlights the important role that law school administrators and staff play in identifying and addressing opportunities for professional identity formation.

One of the contributors offered a very helpful framework for engaging with the student both about the substance of the email and about the tone of the email:

“Dear ________,

I want to thank you for raising the issues regarding _______ to my attention. It is helpful to have your perspective.  In order to address the issues you raised, I propose the following steps. . . . Please let me know if you have any questions, concerns, or other suggestions on how to proceed.

I feel like I would be remiss if I did not also share that the tone and tenor of your communication felt unnecessarily harsh/hostile/accusatory, given that we are part of an educational/work community committed to a shared purpose and a shared expectation of collegiality.  The issue you raised is important; however, the way in which you raised it does not serve to support your cause.  If anything, it could possibly undermine it.  I share this in my role of supporting you in your professional development, and I hope you can receive it in that spirit.  I am happy to discuss this feedback further if you want to schedule time to talk.” (Edited slightly)

I was reminded of a “nastygram” I received when I was serving as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs many years ago.  We had a policy that required even distribution across semesters for an upper level required course but had not put a “cap” on enrollment for the fall semester during registration in the spring.  That meant that during the summer I had to “move” some set of students (approximately 15) from the fall to the following spring to “balance” enrollment.

I sent out an email on a Friday informing the students who had registered that we would be randomly selecting some students to shift to the spring to conform with the policy but would provide exceptions for those who had a particular reason for needing to take the fall course.  I asked students to send me an email explaining their situation and indicated that I would consider their circumstances in identifying students for the shift to the spring.

One student replied on Saturday with an email that started “I am so angry . . .” followed by other inflammatory language about what an outrage it was to have to submit a request to remain in the fall course.  The email proceeded to provide one reason it was necessary for that student to be in the fall course.  The student followed up with two additional emails – one later on Saturday and one on Sunday explaining additional reasons for needing/wanting to remain in the fall course.

I wrote to the student late on Sunday indicating that I did not understand why the student was so angry when all I had asked the student to do was to send me an email explaining their circumstances.  I also advised the student that as an advocate, one doesn’t generally benefit from attacking the decision-maker.  In addition, I noted that in the appeals process, one normally gets only one opportunity to raise issues.  I then asked the student to redraft the email, with an appropriate tone and with all reasons incorporated into that one email, noting that I would consider the student’s request following receipt of a new, measured, complete email request.  I also offered to meet with the student to better understand the circumstances that had made the student so angry.  That “learning moment” was meaningful for the student – who apologized and submitted an email with an appropriate tone and with all factors included (and the student was allowed to remain in the fall course).

One of the things we are (or should be) teaching our students – or trying to help our students learn – is how to conduct themselves as professionals so that they can be the most effective advocates for their clients.  That rarely involves ad hominem attacks or a snarky tone.  When our students manifest a lack of awareness of the importance of carrying themselves as a professional and communicating as a professional, they offer us “learning moments” – moments in which we can intervene to help them learn important lessons about who they want to be as a lawyer and how they should conduct themselves as lawyers and as officers of the court.

These conversations with obstreperous students are not always easy – as the students are not always receptive to the idea that this should be a “learning moment” for them.  But I think we have a responsibility to our students, to the profession, and to those we serve to guide our students to avoid cantankerous behaviors as they develop their voice as an advocate for themselves and for others.

While some of these misguided communications may be directed to faculty – providing faculty members the opportunity to facilitate a “learning moment” for the student – many of them are going to be directed to administrators and to staff – members of the law school community who also share a responsibility to help students through “learning moments” as they transition from the identity of student to the identity of lawyer.  It takes the whole building.  We are all in this together.

Please feel free to contact me at jmorgan@stthomas.edu should you have any comments or questions.

Jerome Organ is the Bakken Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law