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Patrick Longan

Mercer Law School to Host Symposium on Current Issues in Professional Identity Formation

By: Pat Longan, William Augustus Bootle Chair in Ethics and Professionalism
Director, Mercer Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism
Mercer University School of Law

On March 8, 2024, Mercer University Law School and the Mercer Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism will host a symposium on current issues in professional identity formation. The Mercer Law Review will publish the articles that emerge from the event.

The symposium is the 24th annual Georgia symposium on professionalism and ethics. The series is funded by an endowment that resulted from the settlement of charges of litigation misconduct in a civil case in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia in the 1990’s. That same settlement endowed professorial chairs in ethics and professionalism at Mercer, the University of Georgia, Emory University, and Georgia State. The annual symposium rotates among those four schools.

Mercer’s 2024 symposium will have four main presenters, who will each be followed by two commentators.

David Grenardo of the University of St. Thomas School of Law will present on “How Law Schools Can Help Historically Underrepresented Students Develop Their Professional Identities.” Women, people of color, first gen college and first gen law students, and individuals from the LGBTQIA+ group may have a harder time with their professional identity formation, particularly if they do not have family members, role models, and/or mentors who are lawyers. When you add in structural and institutional racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination, bias, and prejudice that are a part of the legal system, it makes it that much more difficult for historically underrepresented individuals to know where and how they will fit in as lawyers. David’s presentation will focus on what law schools can do for these students as they develop their professional identities.

The commentators for David’s presentation will be Barbara Glesner Fines from UMKC School of Law and Janice Craft from the University of Richmond School of Law.

Daisy Floyd from Mercer Law will speak on “The Role of Purpose in Professional Identity.” In Educating Lawyers, the Carnegie Report describes the apprenticeship of “identity and purpose” to emphasize the importance of grounding legal education—and the student’s emerging professional identity as a lawyer—in the public purposes of the profession. During the 1950’s, social scientists began to study the role of meaning and purpose in a person’s life, and the advent of positive psychology in the early 2000’s spurred an emerging body of empirical research on the importance of purpose to a fulfilled and meaningful life. This presentation will address what lessons legal educators can learn from purpose studies to inform our work on the formation of professional identity.

Ken Townsend from Wake Forest Law and Harmony Decosimo from Suffolk Law School will be Daisy’s commentators.

Kendall Kerew from Georgia State College of Law has chosen as her topic, “The Rule of Law, the Role of the Public Citizen, and Professional Identity Formation.” The Preamble of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct defines a lawyer as “a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice,” and charges lawyers as “public citizens” to “seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession” while also “further[ing] the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and justice system. . . .” This presentation will explore the intersection of the Preamble’s definition of lawyer with the intentional exploration of law student professional identity formation and training on cross-cultural competence, racism, and bias required by ABA Standards 303(b)(3) and 303(c) as a means to help students discern their role as future lawyers and empower students in their duties to protect the rule of law as the foundation of democracy, provide access to justice, and make change where the law has created injustice.

Kendall’s commentators will be Eduardo Capulong from CUNY School of Law and Kelly Terry from University of Arkansas Little Rock (UALR) William H. Bowen School of Law.

Finally, Aric Short from Texas A&M University School of Law will speak on “Beyond Fiduciary Duties: Developing Discernment to Navigate Conflict in Law Student Professional Identity Formation.” The concept of lawyer as fiduciary is deeply rooted in what it means to be an attorney—it’s integral to our professional identity. Aric’s presentation and paper will explore the concept of the lawyer as fiduciary, including how that label affects well-being messaging and programming in law schools. Aric will identify predictable conflicts that can arise for legal professionals in the areas of values, duties, and priorities and explore how we can more effectively guide students to develop effective skills of discernment to better prepare them for these professional conflicts. 

Carwina Weng from LSAC and Lindsey Gustafson from UALR William H. Bowen School of Law will provide the commentary on Aric’s presentation.

The events begin with a dinner for the speakers, invited guests, and Mercer Law Review members the night of March 7 at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. The Honorable Tony DelCampo, President of the State Bar of Georgia, will provide the welcoming address. The following day’s program will be held in the Bell-Jones Courtroom at Mercer’s law school.

I extend my thanks to all who have agreed to be part of this event. Anyone who is interested in attending or has any questions about the symposium may contact me at longan_p@law.mercer.edu.

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.

David Grenardo, Felicia Hamilton

Debunking the Major Myths Surrounding Mandatory Civility for Lawyers Plus Five Mandatory Civility Rules That Will Work

By Felicia Hamilton, Holloran Center Coordinator

David Grenardo, Associate Director of the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, recently won the prestigious Warren E. Burger award for his essay “Debunking the Major Myths Surrounding Mandatory Civility for Lawyers Plus Five Mandatory Civility Rules That Will Work.” This award honors research that contributes significantly to the field of professionalism, civility, ethics, and excellence.

Building on his previous scholarship on the importance of civility in the legal profession, Grenardo tackles common misconceptions that prevent widespread standardization and proposes five rules for holding lawyers accountable to practicing civility with colleagues, clients, and opposing counsel.

Read the abstract below:

Civility remains a problem in the legal profession. Teaching law students about civility is important, if not critical, but it is not enough. Entertaining CLEs on civility for lawyers make for a fun hour, but they also fall short. Calls for civility and calls to return to civility have become routine, yet they can ring hollow. Adding phrases about civility to the oaths lawyers take to practice sounds wonderful, but those oaths oftentimes lack accountability. Recognizing that our country is divided and toxic in the way we communicate with each other is accurate, but that similarly fails to solve the problem. And most of all, we are naïve to hope that some lawyers will make significant changes to their behavior in a profession riddled with systemic incivility just because others in the legal profession kindly ask them to do so. Systemic change requires significant changes to the system.

Part I of this Article provides an overview of civility in the legal profession. Part II describes mandatory civility in the legal profession. Part III raises the major myths of mandatory civility and responds to each of them. Part IV includes proposed mandatory civility rules, while Part V sets forth arguments against mandatory civility and responds to those arguments. This Article concludes that mandatory civility rules are necessary and practicable.

How many more calls to civility must we endure as civility continues to decline in society and the legal profession? How long will the legal profession continue to pay lip service to civility while the negative effects of incivility continue to plague the profession? Talking is not enough—leaders of the legal system need to act. State bars, state supreme courts, and, if necessary, state legislatures must take the step that four brave states already have—mandate civility.

Download the full article from SSRN here.

 

Felicia Hamilton is the Coordinator for 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.