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David Grenardo

What About Us? How Law Schools Can Help Historically Underrepresented Law Students Develop Their Professional Identities

In a forthcoming article for Mercer Law Review, Holloran Center Associate Director David Grenardo presents a critically important perspective on the ways that historically underrepresented students face obstacles to their professional identity formation. Grenardo provides context around why these issues can seem insurmountable to staff and faculty, and explains why it is crucial to tackle them head-on: structural biases in law school stall the academic and professional development of historically underrepresented students. He closes with practical, solution-oriented suggestions around mentorship, academic support, and experiential learning that would create an environment in which all students are welcome.

The article abstract follows. You can also read a draft of the entire article on SSRN.

The revised ABA Standards require law schools to provide substantial opportunities for law students to develop their professional identity. An individual’s professional identity as a lawyer consists of one’s personal identities integrated into who they are as a professional. Gaining a professional identity means going from an outsider to an insider in that profession, and a law student’s professional identity formation refers to the process of evolving from law student to lawyer. Law schools must dive into the murky waters of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation because that is where our historically underrepresented law students are, trying to become professionals in a system that sees them as the other, different, and outsiders.

Part I of the Article briefly defines professional identity. Part II sets forth an overview of the many obstacles historically underrepresented law students face—including, but not limited to, the historical exclusion of underrepresented individuals from law school and the legal profession, imposter syndrome, bias, microaggressions, wealth and education disparities—in developing their professional identity. Part III provides a summary of tangible solutions that law schools may employ to address those obstacles and help those law students develop their professional identity. This Article concludes that it is critical for law schools to intervene to ensure historically underrepresented law students can properly develop their professional identity.

Please reach out to David Grenardo at with any questions or comments.

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.


Toni Jaeger-Fine

Introducing the Second Edition of Toni Jaeger-Fine’s Becoming a Lawyer: Discovering and Defining Your Professional Persona (2023)

By: Toni Jaeger-Fine, Senior Counselor, Fordham Law School; Principal, Jaeger-Fine Consulting

Jaeger-Fine’s concept of the Legal Professional Persona refers to a set of attitudes and behaviors that enable success and flourishing in the profession. As legal educators, students, and professionals, we tend to focus on legal knowledge and technical skills to the exclusion of these attributes that comprise the professional persona. The touchstone of cultivating a strong and sustainable professional persona is intentionality, and the goal of this book is to make each of us more deliberate about how we develop and nurture our professional identity.

This second edition is the product of conversations with, and feedback from, hundreds of law students and legal professionals, and the author’s own lifelong journey toward building and refining her own professional persona.

The book is divided into three main parts, reflecting the pillar of the professional persona: fundamentals; self-management; and relationships.

Fundamentals introduces the concept of the professional persona and its importance, discusses the state of today’s legal profession, and identifies the building blocks of a professional persona. In particular, this part examines how we move through stages of competence, the need to create sustainable habits and tools for doing so, the primacy of social and emotional intelligence, and the importance of leadership as a mindset and general orientation rather than a matter of position in a hierarchy.

Self-management—professionalism from the inside—addresses a range of issues relating to mindset and dispositions (such as a positive mindset, commitment to excellence, and character), time management and organization, and well-being. This part also offers a practicaand mindset approach to a sustainable form of well-being.

Relationships—professionalism with the outside—considers working with others, which embraces among other things the importance of inclusive thinking and controlling our cognitive biases, effective communication, managing up and down, and business development and client management. This part also covers talent management, development, and retention, including how to accelerate diversity, equity, and inclusion. In addition, this part addresses ensuring that our public professional persona promotes our own professional identity, the goals of the institutions with which we are associated, and the profession more generally.

The book is eminently readable, and most chapters end with a series of questions for reflection, making this book readily adoptable for professional identity courses. Becoming a Lawyer: Discovering and Defining Your Professional Persona is available from West Academic or on Amazon. Please feel free to email me at if you have any questions or comments.

Janet Stearns

Getting it Done, and On Time

By: Janet Stearns, Dean of Students, University of Miami School of Law

Deadlines matter
Regardless of our practice area, job setting or employer, we are called upon to complete projects on deadlines set by clients, courts, and bosses. Our ability to manage competing projects and complete tasks on time is a fundamental professional skill.

In September, Nikki Beach, a renowned Miami Beach day spa, lost the right to remain on the property when their lawyers failed to submit a timely proposal to the city. According to the city attorney:

“…[Y]ou did not submit your proposal in Periscope by the deadline, as required by the RFP, and we cannot accept late submittals. Thank you and have a wonderful weekend.”[1]

Habeas petitions in death penalty cases have also found their way to the U.S. Supreme Court over the issue of missed filing deadlines.[2]

Law School & Deadlines
Deadlines produce anxiety and stress among our students. These situations present us with the opportunity to teach about the importance of deadlines, and the ways that we can respond and plan for them. For example, in the past week, our 1L Legal Communications and Writing Course had a memorandum due Monday night at 8 p.m. Meeting this benchmark demonstrated the ability of our students to work under pressure and complete a task on deadline. Some students completed the assignment well in advance over the weekend, others coming in just under the wire. Yet others were still reaching out after the deadline due to various technical and personal issues, asking for extensions and permission to submit late. Our student affairs team, working hand in hand with the Legal Communications and Writing faculty, needed to collaborate on our policies to determine whether to accept late submissions. We have also reflected hard on the lessons that we are teaching our students in these moments that they are confronting the challenges of meeting professional deadlines. At present, the grading deadlines are enforced, with significant penalties for late submissions.

We have the opportunity to teach about the importance of deadlines in other settings, too. Clinics and externships clearly give students some “real world” perspective on meeting deadlines. We also find that students engage with the University over various registration, financial payment, commencement application, and other administrative deadlines, and we do our best to send consistent messages about these activities. Extracurricular activities including Moot Court and Law Review involve submission deadlines, and we have historically construed these very strictly, along the way teaching lessons to our students about the value and necessity of completing tasks on time.

In some situations, we observe students who consistently face challenges in managing their time and meeting deadlines. We continue to explore options for additional training and coaching on executive functioning skills and time management for these students. In my opinion, barring an extraordinary medical or personal family situation, we should not be accommodating or extending these deadlines. We must not only continue to articulate the essential professional skill of learning to meet these deadlines, which students will confront in the “real world,” but we must also align our teaching and administrative practices with this reality.

Character & Fitness Considerations
The Florida Bar character and fitness questionnaire asks us to certify a number of issues, including the following:

Is the applicant thorough in fulfilling obligations?

Does the applicant meet deadlines?

For many years, our focus has been on conduct issues such as academic integrity and candor. Recently, however, we have found the need to disclose when students have chronic issues with fulfilling obligations and meeting deadlines. This semester, I have sent two letters to the Florida Bar relating to students in which, after multiple efforts at outreach from me and professors, we still saw a significant lack of responsiveness and attention to obligations in clinics, law review, and other law school obligations.

Following a brief survey,[3] we identified the following states that also asked character and fitness questions relating to these issues:

  • Maine Board of Bar Examiners Law School Certification (linked here) asks law schools to certify the following statement:
    • “I certify that I am not aware of and my review of the record has not revealed any incident in which the applicant failed to meet a material obligation.”
  • Mississippi Certificate of Dean of Law School (linked here) asks:
    • “Is the applicant timely and thorough in fulfilling obligations?”
  • Wyoming Bar Dean’s Certificate (linked here) asks:
    • “While engaging in law school activities including, without limitation, clinical courses and student bar association activities, did the applicant breach any professional or fiduciary obligation or any duty or trust?”

I would invite all members of our Professional Identity community to consider how and where we have the opportunity to message and teach the essential professional skills around deadlines and obligations. Please feel free to reach out to me at if you have any questions or comments.

[1] Aaron Liebowitz, City rejects Nikki Beach bid to remain in South Beach due to missed proposal deadline, Miami Herald, September 02, 2023.


[3] I am deeply grateful to Madeline Raine, Assistant Director of Student Life, for her survey of state character and fitness questions. She stands on the front lines of teaching students lessons about professional identity as they relate to the character and fitness process in Florida.

Greg Miarecki

Do These PIF Courses Really Matter?

By: Greg Miarecki, Executive Assistant Dean for Career Planning and Professional Development, Director of the University of Illinois College of Law Leadership Project, University of Illinois College of Law

Each spring semester, I teach our professional identity formation class, known as Fundamentals of Legal Practice.  A good number of our students speak positively about the class.  But each year, there are always a series of comments in the course evaluations along the lines of, “Why do I have to take this?  This is a waste of time.  I’d rather spend more time learning about constitutional law or contracts.”  For years, I was pretty disappointed in this kind of response (even if it was a minority view).  Then, several years into my PIF journey, I was at a Holloran Center retreat and learned that many of you who teach these classes get the same response.  That support allowed me to take these kinds of comments with a grain of salt, continually reminding myself that my 25 years in the legal profession equipped me with skills and insights that brand new law students simply don’t have.

And, over the years, I get some support from unexpected sources.  Last week, I was meeting with a Chicago firm – a senior partner and a junior associate. The junior associate graduated from our law school and took Fundamentals.  At the outset of the meeting, the partner talked about what he wanted in junior lawyers – he needed responsiveness, focus on client service, someone who could build relationships, and be a leader – all things we talk about in Fundamentals.  I chuckled a bit, turned to the junior associate and asked her if she’d ever taken a class focusing on those kinds of things.  She looked at me quizzically for a moment, and then said, “Oh, that nonsense we listened to in 1L year” – clearly referring to our Fundamentals class.

The partner, intrigued, asked me to explain.  I told him about what we taught in the class, and he enthusiastically responded that he loved the idea of the class.  We both looked at the junior associate, who looked a bit confused and then sheepishly admitted, “I actually wish I had paid more attention to some of those sessions.”

Some of our students will “get it” right away.  Some will eventually get it, perhaps years into the future.  And some might never get it.  If you ever need reinforcement and support for your PIF initiatives, just talk to alumni and employers – many of them appreciate what you’re doing!

If you would like to share your PIF successes or commiserate, then please connect with me on LinkedIn or email me at

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],

[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.

David Grenardo

A Review of Roadmap

James Leipold served as the executive director of NALP (National Association for Law Placement) for over 18 years. He now works as a senior advisor with the Law School Admission Council (LSAC). Leipold wrote a thorough review of Neil Hamilton’s Third Edition of the award-winning book, Roadmap: The Law Student’s Guide to Meaningful Employment, published by the ABA. Leipold’s detailed and insightful review can be found here.

David Grenardo

Breaking Down Siloes and Building Up Students: The Transformational Possibilities of Professional Identity Formation

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

Three national leaders in professional identity formation—Lindsey P. Gustafson, Aric K. Short, and Robin Thorner—came together to author an exceptional article focused on professional identity formation. Their article, Breaking Down Siloes and Building Up Students: The Transformational Possibilities of Professional Identity Formation, will be part of the University of St. Thomas Law Journal’s spring 2023 symposium issue that will explore pedagogies relating to professional identity formation.

Here is the abstract of the article:

Under the ABA’s sequenced approach to implementation of Standard 303(b)(3), schools should now have developed plans for providing opportunities for professional identity formation and should be implementing them. These plans must provide students with an “intentional exploration of the values, guiding principles, and well-being practices considered foundational to successful legal practice.” In addition, these plans should provide for frequent opportunities for development, “during each year of law school and in a variety of courses and co-curricular and professional development activities.”

Because Standard 303(b)(3) is necessarily tied to the unique character, existing structures, and available resources of a law school, each school’s plan will be different. That has been our experience as we have worked as professional identity formation leaders in different roles with varying perspectives: Lindsey Gustafson at the William H. Bowen School of Law, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, is a current Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and a skills and doctrinal professor; Aric Short at the Texas A&M School of Law is a former Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, a doctrinal professor, and currently serves as the Director of the Professionalism and Leadership Program; and Robin Thorner at St. Mary’s University School of Law is an Assistant Dean for Career Strategy, a teaching adjunct, and the current Director of Professional Identity Formation.

In this essay, we hope to emphasize that professional identity formation efforts can occur all across the law school’s operations, from administrative offices to classrooms to voluntary student activities. We also provide specific examples of how schools can be more intentional and explicit as they weave together multiple professional identity formation opportunities for their students. This process takes time and attention, but it creates a powerful whole-building approach to identity formation that not only complies with 303(b)(3), but also best positions our students for a successful, fulfilling, and impactful career in law.

A link to the article can be found here.

Should you have any questions or comments about the article, please feel free to contact any or all of the authors at,, and


Neil Hamilton


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

The learning outcome for the ROADMAP is that each student takes ownership (self-direction) over the student’s professional development toward the student’s goals of bar passage and meaningful post-graduation employment.  Students at later stages of self-direction demonstrate higher academic performance and planning and implementation skills that increase bar passage and post-graduation employment outcomes. The ROADMAP is empowering each student to perform at the student’s highest capacity. The ROADMAP is also meeting ABA Standard 303(b) and (c) requirements regarding the development of each student’s professional identity.

This third edition of the ROADMAP is a complete revision of the second edition.  Since the first edition was published in 2015, and the second edition in 2018, the Holloran Center and I have continued to learn how more effectively to go where the students are developmentally to help them achieve their goals (and the Law School’s goals) of bar passage and meaningful post-graduation employment.

The entire book is now 50 pages at a price of $19.95 (ABA’s website indicates ordered books will ship on August 15 at the earliest).  In this edition, the students read 21 pages and then do the template plan which is 5 pages.  The reading and the template plan focus on using the student’s time inside and outside of the building to gain experiences that will achieve three goals:

  1. Thoughtfully discern the student’s passion, motivating interests, and strengths that best fit with a geographic community of practice, a practice area and type of client, and type of employer;
  2. Develop the student’s strengths to the next level; and
  3. Demonstrate evidence of the student’s strengths that employers value.

The book then has a chapter on building a tent of professional relationships that helps each student achieve these three goals plus a professional relationship tent-building template plan.  This chapter also includes cross-cultural skills addressing ABA Standard 303(c).

A number of law schools already use the ROADMAP, and the hope is that other law schools will discover its incredible value in helping law students with their professional identity formation.  To discover what the ROADMAP can do for your law students, you can find the book 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.

Janet Stearns

Important New Resource at the Crossroads of Professional Identity and Well-Being

By: Janet Stearns, Dean of Students, University of Miami School of Law

The updated ABA Standards on professional identity and well-being are going into effect with this new school year. Many of us are seeking accessible and affordable resources for our law students that will (1) address the fundamental challenges around well-being in the profession and (2) recommend practical strategies and resources. An essential element of this canon is Lawrence (Larry) Krieger’s updated booklet, Create Success Without Stress in the Law: New Science for Happiness, Health and Positive Professional Identity (2023).

Many of this Blog’s readers know of Larry Krieger and his longstanding work in the field of well-being, happiness, and balance in the legal profession. Larry co-directs the Externship Program and has been a clinical professor at Florida State University College of Law for more than thirty years. Together with Professor Kennon Sheldon, he authored the seminal article, What Makes Lawyers Happy: A Data-Driven Prescription to Redefine Professional Success. In 2007, he served as founding Chair of the AALS Section on Balance and Well-Being in Legal Education. He has been recognized by both the American Bar Association (2019) and the Association of American Law Schools (2016) with Outstanding Service awards for his efforts to bring greater health and well-being to law students and lawyers. Larry and I have been crossing paths and sharing passions over these past sixteen years, notwithstanding the healthy rivalry between our two institutions.

In 2005, Larry first self-published a booklet for law students, then called The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress. The next year, he published a companion booklet, Deeper Understanding of Your Career Choices. Over all these years, many law schools (including my own) purchase copies of the books for their law students.

The most recent edition of the booklet is about 40 pages and combines these themes of law school stress and evaluating satisfying career choices into one very readable and concise format. As evident in the title, Larry has also significantly sharpened the focus on “positive professional identity” in this latest edition, which makes it a very valuable addition to our toolbox. This recent book has greatly benefited from the collaboration, inspiration, and insights of Theresa Krieger. Theresa is a certified health coach, life coach, spiritual coach, and a fitness trainer recognized by the American College of Sports Medicine. She has worked holistically with law students and lawyers since 2016. The couple created and co-teach a course at the FSU College of Law on well-being, professional identity, and transformational leadership. Lessons from that class are infused throughout this latest edition.

The booklet has six major sections:

  1. Stress is a choice that you don’t have to make
  2. Put healthy limits on your legal thinking
  3. Fear of failure and the illusion of control
  4. Partying, depression, and distraction
  5. Finding the right job: surface value or satisfaction value
  6. Quick and powerful practices to start now (my favorite part, but which flows naturally from the previous sections)

Larry has an incredible understanding of law students and speaks directly to them with honesty and compassion. He covers data and literature on our profession, but also speaks to their worries, doubts, and common stress points. While I cannot promise that every single law student will read the book, those who do have always given it positive reviews and are filled with gratitude that this resource was offered to them.

When should we share this book with students? I suggest five main options:

  1. Orientation. The book could be shared and distributed with other materials during law school orientation to prepare students for the law school experience, frame common issues and concerns, and prepare them for the path ahead.
  2. Wellness Week/ Mental Health Day. Many law schools celebrate World Mental Health Day (October 10) with some wellness programming. Larry’s booklet is a wonderful centerpiece for the Wellness Week Initiative, a great handout for a wellness fair, or it can be integrated into other presentations.
  3. Professional Responsibility and Professional Identity Courses, as part of a focused class on lawyer happiness and well-being, or as a supplement to other textbooks.
  4. Student Affairs and Counseling Staff, who should have this available as a handout for the student in crisis. Our offices are filled with students with significant anxiety about the law school experience, whether to continue, how to balance competing demands on time and navigate law school’s inevitable stressors. Larry’s book is an amazing and concrete resource, and it has already served as a lifeline to a generation of students.
  5. Career Development Advisors, who can provide this booklet to students as they are evaluating summer or permanent job options, and trying to plan for their pathway into the profession.

At Miami Law, we typically invest each summer in a supply of Larry’s booklet that would cover our entire first-year class, and then purchase additional copies as needed for our student affairs and career development teams.

If you are interested in investing in Larry’s book for your law school, then please email him directly at He self-publishes the book at the incredibly affordable price of $1.75 to $3 per booklet (based upon quantity) plus shipping.

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


David Grenardo

Student Professional Identity Formation and the Foundational Skill of Building a Tent of Professional Relationships to Support the Student

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

Neil Hamilton, who 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, has authored yet another influential and practical article on professional identity formation. Hamilton’s latest article, which is forthcoming in the Wake Forest Law Review, is a guide for law faculty and staff who want each student to build a tent of professional relationships – a professional network – who both support the student and trust the student to do the work of a lawyer. The importance of professional networks for work performance and career opportunities has been well-established in hundreds of empirical studies. In addition, a growing research literature is documenting that the creation of a professional network requires pro-active networking behaviors, which are defined as an individual’s efforts to develop and maintain professional relationships with others who can potentially provide assistance to them in their career or work.

For some students (and lawyers), “networking” with a clear purpose of strengthening support for the student’s professional goals feels inauthentic, impure, and perhaps even dirty. To avoid this negative connotation, Hamilton’s article uses “building a tent of professional relationships who support the student and trust the student to do the work of a lawyer.” This framing, in Hamilton’s experience, fits within the students’ natural understanding of the importance of social support for each person, including the student, and feels authentic and less instrumental to the students.

A link to Hamilton’s article can be found here.

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.