Mandatory 1L Courses – Holloran Center Professional Identity Implementation Blog
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Mandatory 1L Courses

David Grenardo

Kill 1L: A Realistic Look at Legal Education Reform

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

Prentiss Cox, a Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School, previously published Law in Practice, a casebook to teach lawyering skills to first and second-year law students. His latest article, Kill 1L, proposes a bold, yet practical approach to reforming the 1L curriculum and experience to help develop law students into lawyers.

Here is the abstract of Professor Cox’s article:

Law school education has been extensively studied for decades, but changes have been modest. This Article makes the case that fundamental law school reform will not occur until we abolish the central pillar on which it rests—the current conception of the first year of law school, the “1L” experience. Many studies of law school curricula and pedagogy are sharply critical of the education offered, but they pull a punch when it comes to 1L. This Article compares recent data on 1L curricula at almost every U. S. law school with ABA-required law school statements of learning outcomes. The comparison reveals two contrasts: the gap between what is promised students for their legal education and what 1L delivers; and the gap between what is promised students and the actual use of law by attorneys, judges and even law professors in the modern world. The Article proposes a new 1L curriculum that would engage students in the law used by courts and policymakers while decreasing the demands placed on law students by the repetitive, inefficient legacy 1L curriculum.

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 Cox at


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.

Dawn Figueiras

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

[1] See

[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.

David Grenardo

If You’re Looking for Professional Identity Formation Resources, Then You’ve Come to the Right Place

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

The Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) strives to share as many resources with others as possible. In an effort to make resources even more accessible, the Holloran Center has revamped its website to deliver those resources in a user-friendly manner.

The home page of the Holloran Center website begins with links (on the right side of the page) to (1) short, useful definitions of professional identity and professional identity formation, (2) three articles that explain the ABA’s changes to its standards 303(b) and (c), and (3) two groundbreaking articles on law students’ well-being.

As you scroll down the home page, four major links can be found under the heading “How to Get Started”: (1) Get to Know the Holloran Center, (2) Review Changes to Standard 303, (3) Explore our Tools and Resources, and (4) See Our Research and Training. Each of these four major categories is discussed below.

The first major link, Get to Know the Holloran Center, takes the user to a page that features the leadership team of the Holloran Center, including its Co-Directors Neil Hamilton and Jerry Organ, along with me, and the Holloran Center Fellows, Barbara Glesner Fines, Kendall Kerew, and Lou Bilionis. It also includes links to pages about Tom Holloran, who is the inspiration and namesake of the Center, along with a Donors and Partners page.

The second major link, Review Changes to Standard 303, leads to a page that includes (1) a list of existing entry ramps for schools to incorporate professional identity formation and (2) a link to an open access book – Law Student Professional Development and Formation: Bridging Law School, Student, and Employer Goals – that provides a straightforward and detailed look at the changes to 303(b) and (c) and suggestions regarding how to comply with those standards, and (3) the introductory materials mentioned above (short definitions of PI and PIF and three short articles about the changes to the ABA standards).

The third major link – Explore our Tools and Resources – brings up three more links on that topic: Learning Outcomes Database; Holloran Competency Milestones; and Professional Development Database.

The Learning Outcomes Database contains a searchable list of all law school learning outcomes that were available on law school websites as of January 2022. The Holloran Center identified those law schools with “basic” learning outcomes – those that recite the language of Standard 302 and nothing more. The Holloran Center also identified those law schools with more robust learning outcomes than required by the language of Standard 302.

The Holloran Competency Milestones are rubrics that describe the various stages of development associated with learning outcomes. In other words, they provide a tool to assess whether (and to what extent) law students are reaching learning outcomes in a variety of areas, including the following:

The Professional Development Database list includes 62 first-year, required, law school professional development initiatives based on information from law school websites as of November 2019. This list, as well as the Learning Outcomes Database, are currently being updated by research assistants for the Holloran Center. The updates should be available by September 1, 2023.

The fourth major link, See Our Research and Training, consists of three links itself. The first is the Roadmap for Employment, which is the award-winning book that provides a template for law students to use throughout all three years of law school to be fully prepared to find meaningful employment upon graduation. ABA Books will publish the substantially revised third edition of Roadmap on August 1st of this year; the latest edition is streamlined and even more law-student friendly at 51 pages total.

The second link under Research and Training, Coach Training, offers coaching tips and a guide to perform one-on-one coaching with law students, which is the most effective method to foster each student’s professional growth. The third link contains extensive Research on Professional Formation in multiple areas, such as professional formation overview, the importance of professional formation, promoting student self-direction, fostering a fiduciary mindset, assessing student professional development, legal education observations, and law student well-being and satisfaction.

As you scroll down the home page, there is a link to the Holloran Center Professional Identity Implementation Blog, which features useful and creative articles by contributors from law schools across the entire country.

Scrolling down further on the home page one will find several of the four major links described above.

We are thankful for the excellent work of Carrie Hilger at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and the University of St. Thomas IT Department in revising the Holloran Center website. We are particularly grateful to Skylar Peyton, a rising 3L at the University of St. Thomas School of Law, whose attention to detail, work ethic, and dedication helped to vastly improve the website.

The Holloran Center hopes that its website continues to serve as a valuable hub for free and accessible professional identity resources that can benefit law schools across the nation.

Should you have any questions or needs, please feel free to contact us.

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

The Curse of Coverage and Professional Identity Formation

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

In any conversation about integrating greater opportunity for professional identity formation pedagogy into the curriculum, particularly when suggesting that this be part of the required doctrinal curriculum, one will hear an objection that there is no room.[i]  For many doctrinal teachers, incorporating professional identity formation opportunities or focus into classes would require sacrificing critical doctrinal content and analytical skills.  The pressures toward coverage as a course goal are not insubstantial.  Textbooks grow exponentially each year, reflecting the growing breadth of the law and legal resources.  If a faculty member assigns only a small portion of a textbook, or their syllabus identifies far fewer topics than those contained in the syllabi of other professors teaching the same course, then students feel cheated. The “mile-wide, inch-thick” bar exam looms over all.

The pressures toward broad coverage of doctrine as the primary goal of course design are premised on a number of false premises about student learning.  First, faculty presume that coverage means learning, when research tells us that more content does not mean more learning. “If learning is to endure in a flexible, adaptable way for future use, coverage cannot work.  It leaves us with only easily confused or easily forgotten facts, definitions, and formulas to plug into rigid questions that look just like the ones covered.”[ii]  Research in undergraduate programs and medical schools confirms that more content does not lead to more learning.  Deep learning requires context, repetition, application, and reflection.  For this reason, experts in course design emphasize focusing on “the big questions” or the “hard parts” of a course, so that students can master not only a doctrinal subject but also an approach to learning that subject that will support their lifelong learning.

Second, faculty presume that professional identity formation opportunities are disconnected from knowledge and skills, rather than providing the critical context that motivates and supports deep learning.  Quite the opposite is true.  Students approach their subject-matter study with much greater engagement and a broader lens when they are asked to do the following: (1) consider themselves in the role of attorney in applying a particular doctrine; (2) examine how the law impacted the individual clients in the cases they are studying; or (3) reflect on how the values brought forth in the classroom discussions comport with their own personal values and experience.

Third, faculty presume that the classroom is the primary locus of learning, when even the American Bar Association’s definition of a credit hour recognizes that most of a student’s learning occurs outside of class.  Classroom time is only one-third of the time students devote to any given subject.  Many faculty are coming to realize that this precious time in which students are together in the classroom is squandered if the opportunities for discussion, debate, and practice are spent on lectures (even if interspersed with question prompts) designed to cover content.  Even before the pandemic disrupted pedagogies, faculty had discovered the possibilities of a flipped classroom – providing lectures and efficient delivery of knowledge transfer outside of class and using class time to focus on development of skills and perspectives.  Faculty can then more easily take a small but significant further step to ensure that a frame for these exercises is the student’s own development as a professional.

So how do we exorcise the curse of coverage and make room for opportunities for professional identity formation in the classroom?  We do so by questioning the assumptions that more content is critical to learning and instead focusing on the big questions, marrying professional formation with knowledge and skill development, and finding more efficient ways to deliver content instruction outside of class so as to engage students more fully in the classroom.  Please reach out to me at if you have any questions or comments.

[i] This piece is excerpted from The Curse of Coverage and Professional Identity Formation, U. St. Thomas L. Rev. (Forthcoming 2023).

[ii] Grant P. Wiggins & Jay McTighe, Understanding By Design 46 (2nd ed. 2005)(Lee Shulman, Taking Learning Seriously, 31(4) Change 10, 12 (July/August 1999).)

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

Transitioning from Student to Lawyer: Infusing Professional Identity Formation into the Required Curriculum

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

On April 20 and 21, 2023, the Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions and the University of St. Thomas Law Journal hosted a symposium/workshop that focused on incorporating professional identity formation (PIF) into the required curriculum, namely 1L courses and Professional Responsibility (PR). The speakers consisted primarily of casebook authors who include PIF in their textbooks and corresponding courses.

Orchestrated and led by Jerry Organ, Co-Director of the Holloran Center, the symposium/workshop offered one impactful speaker after another. The presentations provided a wide array of means to include PIF in the required curriculum. Each panel is listed here, and the following are just snippets of what professors presented:

  • Role-playing exercises, which included an inter-disciplinary dental malpractice deposition simulation in Torts in which law students work directly with dental students as purported expert witnesses;
  • team-based approaches to learning in first-year and PR courses;
  • the use of technology to aid in PIF;
  • the importance and use of reflective journaling;
  • methods to address well-being; and
  • details of a required 1L PIF course.

The panelists inspired and motivated each other and the attendees with creative ways to incorporate PIF. For example, Neil Hamilton, Co-Director of the Holloran Center, shared how he matched coaches (alumni of the law school) with teams of students in his PR course based on the students’ practice areas of interest, and the coaches guided discussions and reflections within those small groups on critical aspects of the practice of law, such as how to deal with adversaries and the importance of relationships. Kendall Kerew, a Holloran Center Fellow, discussed a simple technique to ask students anonymously about what they learned after each class, remaining questions they had from class, and how they are feeling. The effects of that daily exercise at the end of class allow her to gauge where further instruction is needed on certain topics and to monitor and address any well-being issues that students may be encountering.

Whether incorporating PIF entailed an exercise in a class or a complete immersion throughout the fabric of an entire course – as Lou Bilionis, another Holloran Center Fellow, demonstrated could be done in his Constitutional Law course – a common theme throughout the event was placing the students in the role of the attorney serving a client through various types of simulations. PIF involves helping law students become lawyers. Giving a student opportunities to act in the role of an attorney helps them understand what it means to be a lawyer and how to be a lawyer, particularly when coupled with purposeful and guided reflection.

The other theme that echoed throughout every speaker and group discussion was a love for the students. PIF encompasses trying to help law students become the best people and professionals that they can be, which means something different for every single student. The dedication and commitment to help law students develop into professionals resonated with all those attending, including the talented members of the University of St. Thomas Law Journal who helped put on the event.

Holloran Center Fellow Barbara Glesner Fines, who initially came up with the idea to bring together doctrinal faculty of required courses to discuss PIF, led a necessary discussion on the “curse of coverage.” This curse oftentimes prevents law professors from adding anything new or changing the way they teach because they feel constrained to get through all of the material they can to prepare students for the Bar exam. It became clear early on in the event that through planning, intentionality, and just a modicum of creativity, a professor can easily incorporate PIF in small, medium, or even large portions in any class they choose, with no loss of coverage and the possibility of some gain in learning.

As with every Holloran Center symposium/workshop, the participants left feeling empowered, inspired, and motivated to help law students move along in their journeys to become lawyers.

The Law Journal will be publishing pieces from this symposium, which will be highlighted on this blog when those articles are ready. Should you have any questions or comments about this post, please email me at

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.

Leah Teague

Training Law Students to Converse Respectfully: Public Discourse Workshop

By: Leah Teague, Professor of Law & Director of The Leadership Development Program, Baylor Law School

As previously discussed, amendments to ABA Standard 303(b) (development of a professional identity) & (c) (education to law students on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism) did not require major adjustments to our programming at Baylor Law. Still, we created a faculty committee to document our compliance and consider enhancements. The committee confirmed numerous ways in which Baylor Law already complies and then considered additional opportunities to enhance their training.

This post highlights one of those enhancements. Beginning with the Fall 2022 entering class, students in each entering class are required to participate in a public deliberation workshop in their second week of law school.

What is public deliberation and why should law students learn how to do it?

The public expects lawyers to be zealous advocates for their clients, but sometimes a lawyer’s conduct goes beyond zealous advocacy and crosses the line of civility. Not only does ill-mannered conduct reflect poorly on our profession, but it also contributes to the normalizing of disrespectful, uncivil, and polarizing reactions to viewpoints and statements with which a person does not agree.

Lawyers’ professional obligations extend beyond individual clients to our system of justice and to society. As stated in the preamble to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct: A Lawyer’s Responsibility, “[a] lawyer is a representative of the clients, an officer of the legal system, and a public citizen having a special responsibility for the quality of justice.” Since the beginning of this nation, lawyers have recognized that their special status comes with a professional responsibility to address pressing issues facing society. A lawyer’s legal education and training provide the opportunity to be change agents and difference makers not only for their clients but also in their communities and across the nation. These professional obligations and opportunities for influence call for lawyers to model civil discourse and to be able to facilitate deliberation in a calm and respectful manner.

The Public Deliberation Workshop teaches our students a different way to approach advocacy – one that helps them embody professionalism, model civility, and advocate more effectively. The following excerpt (from Baylor University’s website) succinctly summarizes the Baylor Public Deliberation Initiative:

“Deliberation involves the best parts of dialogue (conversational) and debate (argument) to offer an experience where participants can learn from one another by talking through different perspectives and approaches to local and global issues and working together to come up with community action steps.

We want this experience to occur early in law school, so students recognize that civility and professionalism are not antithetical to zealously representing a client. We also hope the experience will inspire and enable students to approach some of the most potentially heated issues debated in the public square (e.g., race, religion and its role in society, sexual orientation, gun rights or gun control, among others) with a desire to build community through shared values, solve problems, and build a better tomorrow.

Public Deliberation Workshop Required for Baylor Law Students

Beginning with the Fall 2022 quarter, each entering student at Baylor Law is introduced to a model for civil discourse through a workshop developed in partnership with Baylor University’s Public Deliberation Initiative. Dr. Joshua Ritter, former Director of the Public Deliberation Initiative, leads the workshops and describes it as a “partnership for training law students as active deliberative citizens with democratic skillsets they can implement within their own communities and leadership.”

The 1½ hour workshop begins with a video from our dean to explain the importance of the effort and to give some context. After some initial remarks and instructions by Dr. Ritter, the law students are divided into groups of 10-12 and given an issue for discussion. Different topics can be used but it needs to be one that elicits a wide range of differing views. We use food insecurity in our workshops to provide a less controversial topic but one with which students have a wide range of understanding and personal experience. The goal is not to change anyone’s mind on the issue, but simply for each participant to hear and to be heard on the issue. Topics incorporated into the training include active listening, cultural competency, and emotional intelligence.

Through this interactive exercise, we hope to demonstrate to students that individuals with diametrically opposed positions often share common values, but they may prioritize those values differently. We are already seeing the benefit to the law school environment as well. Creating a culture of respect for colleagues with different life experiences and perspectives enriches our classrooms and programs.

The workshops provide additional opportunities for second- or third-year law students as well. Law students in our Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) course are trained by Dr. Ritter to be the small group facilitators for upcoming workshops. As facilitators, their job is to keep the group on task while remaining neutral. After training and participation, the law students receive certificates as public deliberation facilitators.

Teaching students about expected behavior as legal professionals is baked into the DNA of a Baylor Law education. With that said, we recognize more can and should be done. Nine years ago, we made significant strides to be more intentional in our professional development training. In 2014, we created our Professional Development Program and our Leadership Development Program to better equip students for the modern challenges of being a member of our time-honored profession. The Public Deliberation Workshop is our newest addition to what we are now calling Baylor Lawyer Pathways, which will be described in a future post.

Please contact me at  for more information on any of our programs. 

Leah Witcher Jackson Teague is a Professor of Law and the Director of Business Law Programs at Baylor Law School.

Greg Miarecki

The Leadership Project

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

As part of our work on professional identity formation, the University of Illinois College of Law recently launched a Leadership Project that is designed to teach students about core principles of leadership.  For many reasons, our profession is over-represented in leadership ranks.  One only need look at the 45 U.S. Presidents (Grover Cleveland was one man, but two Presidents) for proof – 26 of them were trained as attorneys, two of them (Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama) from Illinois.

The Leadership Project begins in the 1L year, with three sessions of our Fundamentals of Legal Practice course focused on leadership.  One class offers general principles of leadership, co-taught by our Dean and the CEO of Portillo’s Hot Dogs.  The second class focuses on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion when leading teams. The third and final class in the series focuses on leadership in the non-profit realm, recognizing that lawyers will be called to lead everything from condo boards to nations.

We invite 2Ls and 3Ls to continue with Leadership Project activities.  Each year, we offer a series of lectures and classes focused on leadership, as well as two “book talks” – sessions that discuss selected books focused on leadership.  During the past couple of years, we’ve hosted notable guests such as former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar, Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, and Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White.  And, together, we’ve read and analyzed a variety of books, including, for example, Barack Obama’s A Promised Land and Sam Walker’s The Captain Class.  As part of the event planning process, we regularly reach out to student groups and encourage them to co-host Leadership Project events.  This year, many of our events featured student moderators and discussants.  In fact, each year, our Student Bar Association hosts a panel discussion of student leaders – moderated by students – as part of the Project.

Students who complete the required number of lectures, book talks, and classes are invited to participate in a half-day leadership retreat facilitated by an executive coach.  Upon completing the retreat, students receive the designation of Leadership Scholar, which is added to their transcript.  This month, we’re looking forward to graduating our second cohort of Leadership Scholars, and interest in the Project among our students continues to grow.

We’ve also expanded the Leadership Project beyond the student body, offering continuing legal education in this area to alumni and friends around the world.  If you’re interested in learning more about the Leadership Project, or taking part in some of our events, please connect with me on LinkedIn or e-mail me at

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

Patrick Longan

Meeting Students Where They Are

By: Patrick E. Longan
W.A. Bootle Chair in Ethics and Professionalism
Mercer University School of Law

One of the first lessons I learned about teaching professional identity was Neil Hamilton’s oft-repeated observation that we must “meet the students where they are.” This may also be the most important lesson I have learned.

Let me give you an example. At Mercer, a big part of our professional identity course is a series of small group discussions of hypothetical dilemmas the students might face in practice. In one, they are in role as a junior partner in a large firm and discover evidence that a more senior partner, who is a rainmaker and the source of most of their work, may be overbilling their biggest client, a large corporation. The students are asked to come up with a plan for how they are going to proceed and to be ready to convince others in the small group discussions of the wisdom of the chosen course.

This is a classic problem of practical wisdom. There are many values in play, and they are in tension with each other. The junior partner wants to keep a good relationship with the senior partner, for personal and professional reasons. The senior partner has been a mentor, and, without a steady flow of work from the senior partner, the junior partner’s future in the firm is in doubt. At the same time, the junior partner has obligations to protect the firm and the client from the senior partner’s possible wrongdoing. Overlaying those conflicting goals is irreducible uncertainty. Before taking action, the junior partner cannot know for sure whether the senior partner is overbilling or how the firm will react to any questions the junior partner might raise.

The students receive some guidance about how to approach such problems. At a fundamental level, they know that one of the non-negotiable components of a lawyer’s professional identity is fidelity to the client. We teach it as a virtue and articulate it in first-person terms: “I am the kind of lawyer who fulfills my duties of utmost good faith and devotion to my client, and I do not permit my personal interests or the interests of others to interfere with those duties. For this problem, the students also receive more detailed instructions. The problem offers them the options to do nothing, to raise the issue directly with the senior partner, to consult in-house ethics counsel, or to report the partner to the bar.

Because of all the uncertainty, there is no one right answer. Maybe the senior partner is a thief. Maybe he’s a sloppy timekeeper. Or maybe the partner has an arrangement with the client that allows him to bill a certain number of hours each month regardless of how many hours he actually expends. The students have to think through those possibilities and decide what to do.

This is where the lesson “meet the students where they are” comes in. Although there is no single right answer, at least one answer is wrong: the junior partner cannot choose to do nothing. Once a lawyer has substantial reason to believe that their client may have been the victim of overbilling by a partner in the firm, the lawyer must at least inquire further. Fidelity to the client demands action. In the possible overbilling scenario, there are better and worse ways of proceeding, but the lawyer must proceed in some way, even if it is against self-interest.

Every year we learn that many first-year law students cannot bring themselves to accept, even in a law school hypothetical, that they might be required to take personal risks to protect a client from the acts of another. When the students do a written reflection on the exercise, many write, with great candor and self-awareness, that they would not do anything that would put their position at risk, because they feel a primary obligation to protect themselves and their families from the loss of their jobs. Some describe this decision as “minding my own business,” or “staying in my lane,” or – my personal favorite – “not my circus, not my monkeys.” More than a few foresee catastrophic personal consequences if they lose their job. Others justify the decision by pointing out that the client in the hypothetical is a big corporation that would not miss the money.

Students do not respond in these ways because they suffer from character flaws. They are simply at an early stage of their professional identity development. It is our job to “meet them where they are.”

The most important part of doing that is not to be preachy or judgmental about the decision to do nothing in order to protect themselves. We should expect many students to have a self-interested disposition rather than a fiduciary one at this stage. Law students are all high achievers, and being disposed to look out for #1 has helped them succeed. Although we do not shrink from explaining that the decision to do nothing is unacceptable, we do so in a kind and understanding way. For example, we try to help the students see the situation through the client’s eyes. The client has to trust the lawyer and the law firm because the client is unlikely to be able to detect overbilling. The client would surely feel entitled to know if one of the firm’s lawyers was stealing from the client, if for no other reason than to begin the search for a new law firm. The reasons why acting as a fiduciary to a client are non-negotiable begin to emerge from those discussions.

Another aspect of “meeting them where they are” is to address their fears of losing their jobs if they report the senior partner. That is a possible outcome in the scenario. But some students panic because they foresee economic catastrophe.  Some say they fear “not being able to feed my family” or “losing everything I worked so hard for” if they lose their job. These fears are real because that is “where students are.” Many students lead precarious economic lives. Many have no assets or income and live on massive student loans that someday will need to be repaid. Their nervousness about money leads them, in responding to the problem, to cling to the good job they have with lockjaw tenacity, even if the client suffers. But the students do not appreciate that their economic lives as lawyers will be different from their economic lives as students. They do not realize that losing this particular job is unlikely to be quite so catastrophic. There are other firms, other jobs, other clients. There are steps they can take to insulate themselves from possible effects of switching jobs by cultivating their skill, reputation, and client base. At least in this part of the problem, we can speak some comfort to them. Although there is reason to be afraid of losing a job, there is likely no need to be terrified of it. We can start to move them from where they are to a place less filled with economic dread.

A final aspect of “meeting them where they are” in the handling of this problem is to address the suggestion that they owe less of a duty to a big corporate client than to a more sympathetic or impoverished one. The temptation to think that way at an early stage of professional identity development is understandable. Some of our students take a dim view of big business and instinctively feel entitled to condition their conduct as lawyers on the moral worthiness of the client.

If we handle this approach with understanding and patience, we can help the students cultivate a more mature professional identity. Early in the semester, we read a story about a criminal defendant who was executed after he received terrible representation, perhaps in part because his lawyers did not think he deserved it. After all, the client was a “wife-killer.” The students mostly were outraged by that. Many said “everyone deserves the lawyer’s best efforts” or something along those lines. When we play back those sentiments in our discussions about the representation of a large corporation, the students begin to move from where they are to a more sophisticated understanding of the lawyer’s role. If you can’t be 100% of a lawyer for a wife-killer, don’t represent him. If you can’t give your all for a big corporation, do something else. But the students begin to appreciate that selective fulfillment of the lawyer’s duties, depending upon the worthiness of the client, is not an option.

This is a specific example of a general point. Professional identity development is a process. Most law students are at an early stage. If we “meet them where they are” with understanding and kindness, we can help move them to where they need to be. Neil Hamilton taught me that. For this and so much else – thank you, Neil.

Please feel free to contact me at if you any questions or comments about this post.

Patrick Longan
is the William Augustus Bootle Chair in Ethics and Professionalism in the Practice of Law at Mercer University School of Law and is Director of the Mercer Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism