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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 lpgustafson@ualr.edu, ashort@law.tamu.edu, and rthorner@stmarytx.edu.


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 dfigueiras@asl.edu.

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

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

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

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 lkrieger@law.fsu.edu. 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.


Andrele St. Val, Ann Sinsheimer, Ciara Willett, Omid Fotuhi

Fostering Resilience and Engagement in Law Students

By: Dr. Ann Sinsheimer, Professor of Legal Writing, University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Dr. Omid Fotuhi, Research Psychologist, Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh
Andrele St. Val, Assistant Professor of Legal Writing, University of Pittsburgh School of Law
Ciara Willett, Senior Data Scientist, Nielsen


For years, scholars have been calling for a change to legal education—to modernize and humanize the system, to make it more inclusive, and to help students maintain balance. Previous efforts within the law community have used a top-down approach to address these concerns, in which interventions and changes are implemented without consulting the students affected by these policies. At the University of Pittsburgh, through the support of researcher partnerships and grants, we have developed a novel approach—listening to and highlighting students’ experiences while implementing a series of targeted, tailored, and well-timed psychological interventions that emphasize their voices and concerns.

First and foremost, our goals are to improve the law school student experience and foster an environment that supports their academic and professional growth. Additionally, we believe that there are potential ancillary effects across the institution (e.g., admissions, student retention, alumni engagement). In the rest of our post, we describe the origins of The Fostering Resilience and Engagement Project, what we have learned thus far, our future directions and goals, and our recommendations for other law schools or professional programs that wish to adopt a similar model.[i]

Origins of The Fostering Resilience and Engagement Project

While teaching Legal Writing to first-year law students, Dr. Sinsheimer began to notice a pattern. In August, the first-year law students are full of enthusiasm. By the end of October, many are full of anxiety and concerned about exams, worried that law school was not the right choice, and unsure whether their grades will be good enough to find a summer job. Some students feel a tremendous pressure that their first-year performance means “everything” to their future as lawyers; other students seem to regard critical feedback as a statement of their ability instead of an opportunity for growth. If the students fail to perform at the level they expect of themselves, they begin to doubt their ability to practice law. By the end of the year, more than a few students are disenchanted with the process of legal education—a common experience throughout U.S. law schools. Troubled by this pattern, Dr. Sinsheimer looked for ways to make her students more resilient and the process more humane.

In 2018, she met Dr. Omid Fotuhi, a research psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Fotuhi was researching psychological interventions designed to help students to adopt “adaptive mindsets”, specifically by studying how students deal with uncertainty around belonging in new circumstances. Having worked primarily with the undergraduate population, Dr. Fotuhi was interested in how graduate and professional school environments might differ. Together, we began our project at Pitt Law. We were also fortunate to recruit others, specifically Professor Andrele St. Val and our Data Scientist Ciara Willett.

Understanding the Problem

Our first step was to understand the law students’ perspectives of their experiences. We began with focus groups and follow-up surveys distributed to students from each year in the law program. Approaching students to discuss and process their experiences was novel for them, and a sort of intervention itself. One student wrote: “I’ll never be able to fully express the impact the anonymous class exercise of sharing our law school concerns had on me. It completely changed my sense of belonging and outlook on law school for the better.”

Several themes emerged from these initial discussions, and we found that many struggles in law school were shared among first-, second-, and third-year students. For example, many students felt that they didn’t measure up to the “right” law student profile, and several discussed facing an atmosphere of hostile competitiveness. However, our students also expressed “pluralistic ignorance” in their responses—an experience similar to imposter syndrome in which someone mistakenly feels that they are the only one struggling.

Many of the responses echoed features or ‘symptoms’ of a “fixed mindset”— believing that one has a fixed amount of intelligence or talent, and that there is no opportunity for change or growth. Researchers have found that a fixed mindset approach to learning can lead to unproductive competition, uncertainty about belonging to a community or institution (e.g., law school), disengagement, discouragement, apathy, and quitting. In contrast, the adoption of a “growth” mindset—believing that one’s abilities can be developed and that everyone can grow and succeed—is associated with resilience, persistence, and greater abilities to adapt to new situations and deal with new challenges.

Early on in this project, considering students’ mindsets within a “growth” or “fixed” framework helped us to identify appropriate interventions and place students’ experiences in context. We have since learned, however, that this binary perspective is too limited to fully capture our students’ experiences, which involve the following: mindsets that relate to belonging or uncertainty around belonging; one’s sense of relevance and meaning; one’s identity and value in the world; and self-management and performance.

Belongingness Intervention

Our next step was to design a belongingness intervention aimed at fostering greater resilience and engagement in our students. Specifically, we sought to target factors that most powerfully impact students’ perceptions about their potential within the Pitt Law program. The most effective interventions address factors that include both internal qualities (e.g., beliefs, attributions) and external qualities (e.g., messages in the environment), especially when those interventions are tailored to a specific group.

We designed the interventions based on what we learned about the Pitt Law student experience and prior studies that have targeted belonging uncertainty in students from underrepresented populations. These interventions were found to influence performance and well-being long after the intervention was delivered. Our research revealed that, while some students did struggle with a fixed mindset about their potential and abilities, these beliefs did not seem to stem from their pre-existing experiences or backgrounds. Rather, students consistently brought up forces within the law school environment that shaped their beliefs about their potential and put their sense of belonging into question. Therefore, we created a customized intervention program that primarily addressed students’ uncertainties about belonging, while also addressing institutional elements that impacted their growth mindset.

Our Design

We intentionally incorporated the intervention into Pitt Law’s two-semester legal writing curriculum because the small class size, frequency of student contact hours, and opportunity for reflection make this course and the professors well suited for this work. We also planned the timing of the interventions to occur at the beginning of the second semester, after students received their first semester grades in law school and when their anxiety levels are high.

Because our study is the first to empirically test the efficacy of a belongingness intervention for law students, we wanted to compare different methods of delivery. Each course section was assigned to one of three conditions: an in-person version (conducted via Zoom during the pandemic) that involved group discussions facilitated by an expert or trained facilitator during class time, an online version that students completed independently, or a control/comparison group.

The in-person intervention involved group discussions led by Dr. Fotuhi and followed a predetermined structure. First, Dr. Fotuhi gave an introduction that normalized common challenges among students. He also emphasized that the law students were the current foremost experts on the law student experience, and that their highly valued insights would be used to help future students during their transition to law school—a sophisticated psychological strategy designed to reduce the defensive disengagement that often comes with serving “helpful” information to students in need. Second, Dr. Fotuhi gradually constructed an environment of disclosure, starting with an icebreaker to help students feel more comfortable sharing. Third, the students wrote down three good and three bad experiences from law school. They were then asked to share more about these experiences and what advice they would give to incoming students. During this elaboration portion, Dr. Fotuhi introduced language that humanized the student experience (e.g., the notion of ‘pluralistic ignorance’) and encouraged students to reframe their viewpoints from a different perspective. For example, in one session, a few students talked about how their own unique training and prior experiences did not align with what a typical or ideal Pitt Law student might look like. Rather quickly, nearly all the students shared having had the same experience, which led to the realization that there is no one “right” profile for the typical Pitt law student. With this gained insight, the entire class seemed to have a collective sigh of relief as they realized that their uniqueness was actually a point of commonality with their peers.

The main difference in the online intervention is that students completed the exercise individually; however, we still wanted to emphasize the shared nature of experiences in law school while asking students to reflect on their own experiences. To this end, students read a set of anonymous responses from our initial focus groups and surveys, which described other law students’ experiences and struggles. Then, the students were asked to write a paragraph that reflected on their own experiences in law school.

Our Findings (Thus Far) & Future Directions

We evaluated the impact of the belongingness intervention and compared the two different methods of implementation (in-person versus online) with surveys distributed to law students at three time points in their first year: a baseline survey during orientation (August); a post-intervention survey at the start of their second semester (January); and a final follow-up survey at the end of the second semester (April). So far, we have analyzed the results of our interventions with three first-year cohorts (2019, 2020, and 2021) and are currently analyzing our 2022 cohort data.

In the baseline and post-intervention surveys, we asked students to talk about their experiences during the transition to law school. Students voiced concerns about time management, whether they would be able to keep up with the workload, (e.g., “making the adjustment to having constant work and stress”), and the competitive environment (e.g., “Law school is a game of who can do the most work without burning out”). Another common theme was feeling inferior to other students, which sometimes held them back in classes (e.g., “My constant worry is thinking I don’t compare to those who are here and how their experiences are better than mine. I am worried to raise my hand in class, afraid that I may say something dumb and be judged for it or will be forever labeled as ‘that girl’”).

A main goal of our belongingness intervention was to provide support to students during a critical period of law school—when they receive their first semester grades. The strong majority of students reported that they benefited from hearing other students’ stories and found similarities with their own experiences (e.g., “It showed that everyone faces difficulties at first. A lot of people said that with time, it gets better. This seems to be a generalized experience and is reassuring.”).

Despite qualitative reports that the intervention was impactful, it was difficult to identify stable effects of the intervention across the three cohorts using our quantitative measures. One potential reason for this is because the three cohorts had vastly different experiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Second, our measures may not have adequately probed the success of the interventions. Throughout this process, we have found that it is difficult to identify measures that capture the success of these interventions. Typically, mindset interventions result in subtle but meaningful changes in attitude over time, which may not be fully captured by quantitative measures in a survey. Additionally, retention rates at Pitt Law are generally high (with or without our interventions), so something like retention cannot be used as an effective measure of success. We also continuously modified our surveys in response to what we learned from students’ experiences, and the unique situations that our students were facing (e.g., changes to the grading curve at Pitt Law; the COVID-19 pandemic). These changes came at the cost of being able to track students’ responses to specific questions over time.

When collapsing the quantitative data across the three interventions, we found that self-reports of mental and physical health were quite low at the beginning of the second semester (around the time of the interventions, when students are getting their first semester grades), and further declined by the end of the second semester. These trends are quite concerning and validate the need to find interventions that successfully support students throughout law school. For the 2020 cohort, who faced the additional challenges of COVID-19 and online learning, we found that their beliefs about their ability to handle future challenges—an integral part of law school—declined throughout the second semester.

Despite the decline in mental and physical health that students self-reported, as the year progressed, our mindset survey data showed that students more strongly adopted a growth mindset (e.g., “​​You can grow your basic intelligence a lot in your lifetime”). This was a key goal of our belongingness intervention, and we were somewhat surprised to find that the control group also showed an increased growth mindset throughout their first year. Furthermore, although student’s individual growth mindset improved, their beliefs about the institution’s growth mindset worsened throughout the year; even if changes happen at the individual level, an institutional fixed mindset could impede progress.

Future Directions

Based on our conversations with law students and the results of our research, we remain convinced there is an extant need for change. It remains unclear whether our belongingness intervention is the ideal method. As previously discussed, one of our concerns is that our measures do not fully capture the success of our interventions. In the past year, using what we have learned from the first three rounds of data collection, we conducted a final test of our belongingness intervention. In this test, we changed the timing of our approach by implementing the intervention earlier in the first semester. Previously, we implemented the intervention during a period of great stress for students, when they were about to get their first semester grades; we are excited to learn whether adjusting the timing to occur earlier in the year—so that students have more time to adopt a growth mindset—has any impact. We do not expect to find that our intervention can solve all problems for all students—we may need to make considerable modifications (like continued interventions for the second- and third-year students) or adopt a new type of mindset intervention entirely.

Aside from an intervention for 1L students, we are actively engaged in facilitating other changes that can support students throughout their law school experience. We have recorded open-ended conversations with multiple Pitt Law students (2Ls, 3Ls, and recent graduates) about challenges they experienced in law school and how they overcame them. These conversations provided students with an opportunity to reflect upon their transition to law school and frame their experiences in terms of success. We plan to use these recordings to encourage student resilience—either distributed as part of a course curriculum or brief clips that are distributed at significant times throughout the school year (e.g., orientation, when students receive grades, when students are in the process of applying for summer positions). We have also begun conducting more interviews with faculty to convey that they should be first and foremost concerned with supporting students.

There must also be change at the institution level. Last year, we worked with 2L and 3L students to analyze students’ perspectives about the grading curve. A strong majority (74%) of students were in support of abolishing the mandatory curve—many students reported that the imposed curve had negative effects on their mental health and motivation, and that it contributed to a culture of hostile competitiveness. The administration, when made aware of the students’ perspective, brought the students’ concerns to the faculty, who subsequently replaced the mandatory curve with a more equitable grading policy based on a suggested mean. In our most recent survey, we found that among 1L students, support for abolishing the curve was negatively correlated with feeling a sense of belonging within the law school community and beliefs about one’s ability to handle future challenges and keep up with work demands. Not only do these findings echo our concerns about how institutions themselves can influence students’ mindsets, but we also found that students with a stronger individual growth mindset were more in favor of abolishing the curve.

This year, we received a grant to begin expanding our work with faculty. We recently conducted our first workshop with Pitt Law faculty in which we introduced the concept of belonging, growth mindsets, and how to make changes in the classroom to create an environment that fosters a sense of belonging, resilience, and engagement.

Recommendations & Final Conclusions

Over the past few years, we have learned an incredible amount from simply asking students about the challenges and struggles that they face in law school. Our hope is that other law schools and professional programs start to adopt similar programs and initiatives in their own spaces. Asking students about their experiences—instead of guessing—will reveal unexpected concerns and opportunities for growth within a program.

We encourage any interested institutions to reach out to us—we are happy to share what we have learned and are eager to collaborate with other schools. Given the novelty of this work, establishing a consortium or collective of interested programs will be instrumental in sharing resources and findings. As more schools join our efforts, our knowledge about effective interventions and policies will continue to grow. Furthermore, conducting research in professional programs is inherently difficult because of limited sample sizes; coordinating our efforts and sharing data will improve our efforts to understand and improve the graduate student experience.

More generally, we hope that this work encourages a student-focused approach to improving their experiences in professional and graduate programs. The student will always be the leading expert regarding the student experience—their insight has proven invaluable throughout our project. Additionally, we caution that these conversations with students should be ongoing over the years, and similar endeavors must be dynamic and adapt to the changing needs of students.

If you are interested in collaborating with us or have questions about our work, please email Ann Sinsheimer at ans24@pitt.edu.

[i] This work is explained in part in Ann Sinsheimer & Omid Fotuhi, Listening to Our Students: Fostering Resilience and Engagement to Promote Culture Change in Legal Education, 26 Legal Writing 81 (2022).

From Left to Right: Dr. Omid Fotuhi, Dr. Ann Sinsheimer,
Professor Andrele St. Val, Senior Data Scientist Ciara Willett
Linda Sugin

Does Law School Have to Suck?

By: Linda Sugin, Professor of Law & Faculty Director for the Office of Professionalism, Fordham Law School

The three-part series published in the National Law Journal, “Does Law School Have to Suck?,” analyzes seven reasons why law students are unhappy.  In the series, I also propose changes that law schools and the legal profession should adopt to transform the student experience by reforming curriculum, assessment, hiring, and financing.  The solutions advocated reflect two major themes – creating inclusive and supportive communities and individuating the development of professional identity for law students.  These reforms would improve learning and help students build a wider range of capabilities necessary for professional success and satisfaction.

Here is a link to the three-part series published in the National Law Journal on March 30, April 4, and April 6, 2023. Feel free to contact me at lsugin@fordham.edu with questions or comments.

Linda Sugin is Professor of Law & Faculty Director for the Office of Professionalism at Fordham Law School in New York.

Kendall Kerew

A Chat with ChatGPT: The Uniquely Human Aspects of Lawyering

By: Kendall L. Kerew, Associate Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Externships, Georgia State University College of Law; Holloran Center Fellow 

Last month, I had the privilege of participating in the 2023 Wake Forest Law Review Symposium: Leading Change in the Legal Profession.[1] I was part of a panel with Luke Bierman (Elon School of Law) and Maria Savasta-Kennedy (University of North Carolina School of Law) entitled, “Experiential Education and Lawyer Development.” Specifically, the panel “explore[d] the history of experiential education in law schools; the current status of experiential education in American legal education; and the role of experiential education, including clinics, externships, simulations, and more in shaping the professional identity of law students and lawyers.”[2]

Given the focus of the panel, my prepared remarks enumerated four reasons why experiential education should be central to how we teach law students now and in the future: 1) the requirement that law schools incorporate professional identity formation throughout the curriculum because learning while in the role of lawyer, where a student experiences the integration of knowledge, skills, and values, is particularly well-suited to examining one’s emerging professional identity;[3]  2) the requirement that law schools provide education on bias, cross-cultural competency, and racism because, for students in law clinics or field placements, one of the instances must occur before, concurrently with, or part of students’ enrollment in clinical or field placement courses;[4] 3) the development of the NextGen Bar Exam and efforts to ensure alternative pathways to licensure because the path forward is focused much less on rote memorization and more on the application of knowledge and skills;[5] and 4) the greater role artificial intelligence is likely to play in law practice because experiential education teaches lawyering skills that are uniquely human.

In this blog post, I want to focus on the last reason I posited for why experiential education is particularly relevant to the future of legal education: the greater role artificial intelligence is likely to play in law school and law practice. I am sure you have heard the news stories about ChatGPT writing passing answers to the bar exam and law school exams,[6] how ChatGPT can improve student legal writing,[7] how a judge used ChatGPT to write a ruling,[8]  and that ChatGPT may end up making lawyers obsolete.[9] Given all the attention ChatGPT has been getting, I thought it would be interesting to ask ChatGPT the following question and share it as part of my remarks:

What aspects of lawyering cannot be replaced by AI?

This was ChatGPT’s response:

There are several aspects of lawyering that cannot be replaced by AI, including:

Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: Lawyers need to understand their clients’ emotions and needs to provide effective legal advice. AI lacks the ability to comprehend and express emotions, making it difficult for it to replace the empathy and emotional intelligence needed in the legal profession.

Creativity and Critical Thinking: Lawyers often need to come up with creative solutions to complex legal problems. AI, while capable of analyzing vast amounts of data and generating insights, lacks the creativity and critical thinking skills needed to approach legal issues in novel and effective ways.

Advocacy and Persuasion: A significant part of a lawyer’s role involves advocating for their clients’ interests in court or in negotiations. This requires excellent communication skills, the ability to read and respond to non-verbal cues, and the art of persuasion. While AI can analyze and predict the outcome of legal disputes, it cannot advocate for a client in a courtroom.

Ethics and Professionalism: Lawyers are bound by strict ethical and professional standards, which require them to act in the best interests of their clients while upholding the rule of law. AI lacks the moral compass and judgment necessary to make ethical decisions, making it unsuitable for replacing the role of a lawyer.

Client Relationship Management: A lawyer’s success often depends on their ability to build and maintain strong relationships with their clients. AI lacks the ability to build rapport or provide personalized attention to clients, making it difficult to replace the human touch needed in client relationship management.

If you are reading this blog, you probably already knew this and felt secure in the future of our profession. Nonetheless, ChatGPT’s answer encompasses the very things we teach in experiential education and explore through professional identity formation. So for this blog post, I decided to ask ChatGPT a follow-up question:

Why is professional identity formation important to legal education?

This was ChatGPT’s response:

Professional identity formation is essential to legal education because it shapes how law students understand themselves as future lawyers and how they approach their legal careers. A strong professional identity helps students to develop a sense of purpose and a commitment to the values and ethics of the legal profession.

Here are some key reasons why professional identity formation is important to legal education:

Ethical and Professional Conduct: A strong professional identity helps students develop a sense of responsibility towards ethical and professional conduct, which is essential for the effective functioning of the legal system.

Career Satisfaction: By developing a strong professional identity, law students can better understand their strengths and interests, and align them with the legal career path that is most fulfilling to them.

Client Relationships: A strong professional identity can help students develop the skills and mindset needed to build strong relationships with clients based on trust, integrity, and empathy.

Effective Advocacy: Professional identity formation can help law students develop the skills and values needed to be effective advocates for their clients, while still maintaining their own sense of professional ethics.

Overall, professional identity formation is an essential component of legal education, as it helps students develop the knowledge, skills, and values needed to become competent and ethical lawyers.

This response, coupled with ChatGPT’s response to my initial question, reinforced what we already know: professional identity formation is uniquely human and a necessary component of preparing law students to become the lawyers of the future – lawyers who cannot be replaced by artificial intelligence.

Please feel free to reach out to me at kkerew@gsu.edu if you have any questions or comments.

[1] http://www.wakeforestlawreview.com/2023-symposium/.

[2] Id.

[3] See ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools 2022–2023, Standard 303(b)(3), https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_education_and_admissions_to_the_bar/standards/2022-2023/2022-2023-standards-and-rules-of-procedure.pdf; Timothy W. Floyd & Kendall L. Kerew, Marking the Path from Law Student to Lawyer: Using Field Placement Courses to Facilitate the Deliberate Exploration of Professional Identity and Purpose, 68 Mercer L. Rev. 767, 790 (2017).

[4] See ABA Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools 2022–2023, Standard 303(c), https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/legal_education_and_admissions_to_the_bar/standards/2022-2023/2022-2023-standards-and-rules-of-procedure.pdf.

[5] See About the NextGen Bar Exam, https://nextgenbarexam.ncbex.org/ (”Set to debut in July 2026, the NextGen Bar Exam will test on a broad range of foundational lawyering skills, utilizing a focused set of clearly identified fundamental legal concepts and principles needed in today’s practice of law.”).

[6] See Debra Cassesns Weiss, Latest version of ChatGPT aces bar exam with score nearing 90th Percentile, ABA Journal (March 16, 2023), https://www.abajournal.com/web/article/latest-version-of-chatgpt-aces-the-bar-exam-with-score-in-90th-percentile?utm_medium=email&utm_source=salesforce_642881&sc_sid=01075549&utm_campaign=weekly_email&promo=&utm_content=&additional4=&additional5=&sfmc_j=642881&sfmc_s=45062043&sfmc_l=1527&sfmc_jb=18001&sfmc_mid=100027443&sfmc_u=19035492.

[7] See Stephanie Francis Ward, Can ChatGPT help law students to write better? ABA Journal (March 6, 2023), https://www.abajournal.com/web/article/can-chatgpt-help-law-students-learn-to-write-better.

[8] See Columbian judge uses ChatGPT in ruling on child’s medical rights case, CBS News (Feb. 2, 2023), https://www.cbsnews.com/news/colombian-judge-uses-chatgpt-in-ruling-on-childs-medical-rights-case/.

[9] See Jenna Greene, Will ChatGPT make lawyers obsolete (Hint: be afraid), Reuters (Dec. 9, 2022), https://www.reuters.com/legal/transactional/will-chatgpt-make-lawyers-obsolete-hint-be-afraid-2022-12-09/.


Patrick Longan

Professional Identity, Fast and Slow

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

At Mercer University School of Law, we use virtue ethics to teach professional identity. We have drawn on the dozens of professionalism codes and creeds adopted by courts and bar associations over the last thirty-five years and distilled from them the virtues that a lawyer needs. Those virtues are excellence, fidelity to the client, fidelity to the law, public spiritedness, civility, and practical wisdom. Our students learn of the roots of this approach in Aristotelian ethics. We are convinced that this is the best approach to professional identity. Indeed, I have written elsewhere that professional identity is virtue ethics by another name.

There is sometimes a problem in getting this message across. Some lawyers and some law students recoil at the mention of “virtue.” To them, it sounds preachy. Then when we utter the word “Aristotle,” their eyes begin to roll at these academics who are revealing how detached they are from the everyday world of lawyering. (You don’t want to know what they say and do if you use the word “Aristotelian.”) With these audiences, we need another way to convey the key insights of virtue ethics for the professional identities of lawyers without using what they will hear as off-putting academic mumbo-jumbo.

My answer is to make an analogy to the Nobel Prize-winning work of Daniel Kahneman (done in collaboration with Amos Tversky, who died before he could share in the Nobel). Professor Kahneman popularized their work in Thinking, Fast and Slow, which was published in 2011 and has sold more than 2.6 million copies.

Kahneman explains two ways in which people make decisions. Some come from “System 1,” which “operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control.” System 1 engages in “thinking fast.” Other decisions come from “System 2,” which “allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it …. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of agency, choice, and concentration.” System 2 controls “thinking slow.”

For lawyers, the analogy to “thinking fast” is the cultivation of habits and dispositions. Take habits first. Part of a lawyer’s professional identity is excellence. An excellent lawyer shows up on time and meets all deadlines. In the busy life of a practicing attorney, this does not happen because the lawyer sits back and reflects deeply on the need to be punctual for meetings and court appearances. It does not happen because the lawyer takes the time to contemplate each filing deadline and ponder over the importance of meeting it. These parts of excellence emerge when the lawyer cultivates the right habits.

Of course—just between us—much of virtue ethics is about the cultivation of good habits. But habit formation also fits into the more digestible “thinking fast” framework.

As professors, we have enormous power to help our students cultivate the right habits. In our mandatory professional identity course at Mercer, punctuality is rigidly enforced. Students may not enter any class late without advance permission, no matter the reason. When they show up late and miss class, they must explain why and are required to come up with a plan to prevent tardiness in the future. For some, it is simply a matter of setting another alarm. For others, it is starting a long commute much earlier in case of traffic. Regardless of the details, they are developing the habit of punctuality, one of the habits that supports excellence.

We do something similar with the habit of meeting deadlines. The students know that by 8 a.m. every Monday they must complete a writing assignment on Mercer’s learning management system. The assignment closes automatically at 8 a.m. Any students who are late with the assignment must contact me, and I require them to come up with a plan to avoid late submissions in the future. They are cultivating a habit of attentiveness to deadlines, another habit that supports excellence.

In other situations, a lawyer must deal immediately with a problem—they must be ready to “think fast”—and something more than habit is needed. For example, a lawyer may unexpectedly encounter discourtesy or a lack of cooperation from opposing counsel. The lawyer must be prepared to respond appropriately to incivility in the moment. There is no time to reflect on a “Lawyer’s Creed” or an “Aspirational Statement on Professionalism.” The natural tendency (especially for someone like me who grew up with three older brothers) is to return fire. Incivility begets incivility, and the atmosphere quickly becomes toxic. Litigation slows down. It becomes more expensive for the clients and more unpleasant for clients and lawyers alike.

Virtue ethics would say that the lawyer who is the target of the discourtesy should deploy the virtue of civility and break the cycle. How do you prepare students and lawyers to do that when there is no time to think when a fellow lawyer is snide in a deposition, and when these students and lawyers are the ones who roll their eyes at the notion that Aristotle has anything to say about it?

The answer is to introduce the concept of a “disposition,” in the sense of one’s natural inclination to act in a particular way in response to a particular situation. Again, the terminology sometimes can get in the way because lawyers and students think that, by “disposition,” we mean a mood or characteristic attitude, as in “he has a grumpy disposition.” Students understand the concept better if you describe a disposition as a “default setting.” A lawyer whose default setting is not to be surprised or angered at another’s incivility, and who is therefore disposed not to respond in kind to discourtesy, is much more likely to defuse rather than escalate a conflict with an uncivil adversary. There is time before the fact to reflect and decide on what your disposition should be. Having the right disposition then enables the lawyer to do the right thing in the moment when there is no time to ponder. The lawyer is “thinking fast.”

Cultivating such a disposition or default setting in students requires some work. We first have to expose them to the toxin of incivility by having them watch or listen to examples. For many, their natural response to this surprising prospect is fight or flight. With time and effort, we can help them understand the inevitability of encountering these situations, the harm that flows from them, and some strategies for dealing with them. We must “think slow” with them at first. But the ultimate goal is to send them out into the world prepared to encounter others’ incivility and become naturally disposed not to respond in kind. Their professional identity will include an internal commitment to maintaining civility even in difficult and infuriating moments, because they have the right “default setting” or “disposition.”

Lawyers must also, of course, be able to “think slow.” An essential component of professional identity is the cultivation of the “master virtue” of practical wisdom, which enables lawyers to chart or recommend a course of action in uncertain circumstances when multiple goals are in conflict. Again, terminology can get in the way. Lawyers and law students may tune out to the mention of a “master virtue” or “practical wisdom” (don’t ask what they do if you use the word “phronesis”). But the need for practical wisdom translates easily into the need for good judgment, and no lawyer or law student will roll their eyes at the proposition that lawyers need good judgment.

Teaching judgment is harder than teaching punctuality. We use small group (25 to 30 students) weekly meetings in which we discuss a series of “practical wisdom” exercises and put the students in role to exercise judgment about what to do and how to do it. (These exercises are available at https://law.mercer.edu/academics/centers/clep/education.cfm). All of them present circumstances where there is time to “think slow,” work through different possibilities, and contemplate what might follow from each option. We train them to ask and answer the question, “what if I do this?” as part of the exercise of good judgment.

For example, one problem requires the students to decide (in the role of a junior non-equity partner in a large law firm) what, if anything, to do when they suspect a senior partner
of overbilling a client. The junior partner might choose to do nothing, talk to the partner, or report her suspicions within the firm. For each possibility (and any others the students generate), their preparation for the discussion includes how to go about implementing the decision, as well as the anticipated consequences of each decision, and a plan for dealing with those possible consequences.

For a lawyer to have the right kind of professional identity, the lawyer must cultivate the right virtues. Aristotle and his virtue ethics are powerful tools for helping law students get started on the right path. For skeptical students and lawyers, the concept of professional identity as “thinking fast and slow” may be more relatable. The need to cultivate the rights habits and dispositions, and to learn to exercise good judgment, are things we all should be able to agree on, regardless of the terminology.

Please feel free to contact me at longan_p@law.mercer.edu if you any questions or comments.

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

Leah Teague

Baylor Law’s Professional Identity Formation History and the Influence of the Carnegie Report and the Holloran Center on Baylor Law’s Continual Professional Identity Formation Efforts

By: Leah Witcher Jackson Teague, Professor of Law & Director of Business Law Program and Leadership Development Program, Baylor Law School

Thanks to Robin Thorner, Assistant Dean, Office of Career Strategy, at St. Mary’s Law School, law faculty and staff interested in professional identity formation efforts gathered twice in the fall to converse. The next conversation is scheduled for this Thursday, January 26, at 3:00 p.m. Central using the following link via Zoom. I plan to join and hope you will too!

During the fall gatherings, a common request was for more information about law schools’ processes for addressing the recent amendments to ABA 303 and descriptions of programs, events, and activities. In this post, I offer some insight on the background for our work at Baylor Law and also thank the Holloran Center for encouraging us, and so many others, in our work in the areas of professional development and leadership development. In a future post, I will describe Baylor Law’s ongoing review process of our professional identity formation efforts in response to the amendments to ABA Standard 303.

At Baylor Law, professional identity formation efforts have been part of the fabric of our program throughout our 165-year history, but not by that name. As I recently wrote in a post, professional development and leadership development, in an informal manner, have been “baked” into our program from the beginning. Baylor Law’s mission statement expresses a desire to “develop lawyers who are able to practice law with competence, serve with compassion, and provide effective and ethical leadership.” We strive to prepare our students for the demands they will face as members of the legal profession. We also want them to be better equipped to use their legal education and training, along with their status in society as lawyers, to serve effectively and be difference makers.

Our approach to legal education (which incorporates legal analysis, practical lawyering skills, and professionalism) aligns with the scaffolding approach advocated in Educating Lawyers: Preparation for the Profession of Law (more commonly referred to as the “Carnegie Report”). The Carnegie Report, published in 2007, described the three dimensions of professional education that are necessary to adequately prepare students for their careers and professional obligations. The three dimensions for legal education were described as:

  1. Critical thinking skills and legal knowledge that have been the traditional focus of law schools.
  2. Practice application and skills development through experiential education as mandated in the ABA Standards beginning approximately 2005.
  3. Professional identity formation defined as “effective ways to engage and make their own the ethical standards, social roles, and responsibilities of the profession, grounded in the profession’s fundamental purposes.”

This scaffolding approach to legal education aligns perfectly with the practical, values-based, and service-oriented approach to legal education at Baylor Law. When the Carnegie Report came out in 2007, I admittedly did not give its findings and recommendations the attention it deserved, that is, not until hearing presentations and reading articles from our friends at the Holloran Center (specifically Co-Directors Neil Hamilton and Jerry Organ and Holloran Center Fellow Lou Bilionis) and others who devoted years to improving the professional development and ethical leadership of our law students.

Before meeting these dedicated teachers and scholars, we had already begun our own efforts at Baylor Law to enhance and incorporate more emphasis on professional identity formation and professional development of our students, including the creation of our Professional Development Program and Leadership Development Program in 2014. Validation that we were on the right track with our approach to legal education came for us in the fall of 2016 when Neil Hamilton and Lou Bilionis traveled to Waco, Texas to lead our Baylor Law faculty and staff in a workshop. The Holloran Center team complimented us on our multi-dimensional, multi-year approach. Baylor Law professors were encouraged to better communicate to our students the efforts already in place to teach and enforce professionalism. I offer my perspective of fundamental aspects of our approach to teaching and training Baylor Lawyers:

  • teach students to think like lawyers;
  • offer a variety of practical skills training opportunities;
  • require a rigorous practicum in the third year;
  • insist upon professionalism (work ethic, respect for one another, integrity, etc.) in all interactions inside and outside the classroom; and
  • encourage students to adopt a service orientation in their professional and personal endeavors.

The Holloran Center initiatives continued to inform and inspire our work in the summers of 2017 and 2019, when Baylor Law faculty and staff joined teams from other law schools to attend Holloran Center summer workshops. Again, we were encouraged to compose a description of our professionalism training that spans from orientation through graduation. As part of our work in response to the 303 amendments, we are making a conscious effort to do so. More detail of our work in this area will be shared in a future post.

The Holloran Center’s work on professional identity formation continues to influence and inspire us as we seek to improve and enhance the “whole building” approach (as described by Dean Emeritus Bilionis) to teaching, training, and inspiring Baylor law students. Thank you!

I am always happy to visit further with anyone who desires additional information. Feel free to reach out to me at Leah_Teague@baylor.edu.

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


Janet Stearns

Teaching “Reflection & Growth” Through Mindfulness

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

In this past year, I enjoyed some significant opportunities to advocate, negotiate, and study the new ABA standards. I return often to the text and context of the Standards and interpretations and consider how this language is challenging us in our critical roles in law schools today. In review, the comment to Standard 303 guides us:

The development of professional identity should involve an intentional exploration of the values, guiding principles, and well-being practices considered foundational to successful legal practice. Because developing a professional identity requires reflection and growth over time, students should have frequent opportunities for such development during each year of law school and  in a variety of courses and co-curricular and professional development activities.(emphasis added).

How do we teach the foundational skills of ‘reflection and growth” as part of well-being practices in law school? One very significant contribution to answering this question is through the teaching of Mindfulness in law schools.

My colleague and friend Professor Scott Rogers has written a fabulous and important resource—The Mindful Law Student: A Mindfulness in Law Practice Guide. Scott serves as Lecturer in Law and Director of University of Miami School of Law’s Mindfulness in Law Program and Co-Director of the University of Miami’s Mindfulness Research and Practice Initiative. Scott is also a co-president of the national non-profit Mindfulness in Law Society. Scott has spent more than a decade collaborating on peer-reviewed neuroscience research assessing the efficacy of mindfulness training and shares a series of core practices that have been part of this research and are among those found in many well-respected mindfulness training programs. This Practice Guide was published in September by Edward Elgar publishing and is thus a very new tool in our toolbox for teaching mindfulness.

Overview: The Mindful Law Student

The Mindful Law Student is both profound and concise. The materials build upon Scott’s teaching at the University of Miami for the past 15 years. I have been blessed to have a “front row seat” and observe the evolution of Scott’s teaching from his first arrival at Miami Law. Having seen and heard many of his presentations over this time, I was tremendously impressed by Scott’s ability to pull together this complex body of work into such a focused and readable text.

The book is divided into three parts, each consisting of 5 chapters. The first part is called “Mindfulness Elements” and includes a discussion of Leadership, Attention, Relaxation, Awareness, and Mindfulness.  This material is foundational and elucidates the relevance of this topic to every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Part II is “Mindfulness and You” and features specific strategies relating to Solitude, Connection, Self-Care, Movement, and Practice. As Scott tells us:

The chapters in Part II can be read in any order, and you may find them to be useful interludes that complement the readings in Part I.

(I will admit that I read them “in order” the first time but see the opportunities to return to them in different orders, and that this would be welcoming to students.)

Part III, Mindfulness Integrations, raises our awareness of the ways that Mindfulness can affect our lawyering in the areas of Listening, Negotiation, Judgment, Creativity, and Freedom. This section included some very significant “aha” moments for me. For example, in Chapter 11 on Listening, Scott talks about the tendency of lawyers (and physicians) to interrupt their clients and patients. He then offers very specific guidance on how to transition to a mindful listener. Chapter 12 on Negotiation highlights the value of mindful attention to understand better our counterparties and moving beyond self-centered thinking to productive negotiation strategies. Returning to our main theme of professional identity, Part III makes clear the integral role of a mindfulness and reflective practice in performing key elements of our work as lawyers.

Some Special Gems in The Mindful Law Student

Each chapter skillfully integrates scholarship and key teachings on Mindfulness with elements that make this particularly accessible to law students. For one, Scott features seven fictional, diverse law students who face academic and professional challenges and find a pathway for Mindfulness to assist each of them. Each chapter also includes some insightful visualizations and images that capture main concepts. As a visual learner myself, I find these images particularly captivating. Scott is most adept with his key “metaphors”—a reader of the book will quickly understand the images of the flashlight (of attention), the snow globe (of life’s confusing moments), the lightbulb (for awareness), and the spirals (of over-reaction). These images return throughout the book.

Most chapters introduce readers to a different mindfulness practice that connects to that chapter’s subject matter.  A website for the book offers a series of 6-, 12-, and 18-minute versions of each practice, which students can also access via a free app. Scott provides access to practice scripts for those faculty who may wish to offer live guidance in class.

The text skillfully integrates the teachings of many great thinkers, from Rumi and Buddhist devotees to musicians like Herbie Hancock and Supertramp, from civil rights leaders like W. E. B. Du Bois to contemporary lawyers and judges who practice mindfulness.

The Mindful Law Student includes specific exercises and probing questions for meditation and self-reflection at the end of each chapter. Mindfulness requires practice and this is a practice guide. Each chapter also highlights key Trials and Takeaways, which are summaries of main concepts and areas for future work. Finally, each chapter has a concise but helpful list of references and resources for those who might want to dig deeper into any subject.

Chapter 14, “Creativity,” challenges the reader to connect with one’s creative soul through art and poetry. I felt the need to accept that challenge and take the “first step” on that “journey of a thousand miles.” The text discusses the Haiku structure, composed of three-line stanzas of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. I took the plunge, and so here I share my first mindful Haiku with you, inviting our readers to consider your own creative endeavors.

Haiku #1

Powerful Law profs

Changing the world mind by mind

Moment by moment


Guiding law students

Capable of breath, thoughts, dreams

The key: mindfulness


Reflective lawyers

Navigating this world with



Strategies for Using The Mindful Law Student

This Practice Guide can be integrated in a number of productive ways into the law school experience of teaching professional identity. Some options might include:

-A stand-alone course on Mindfulness. The fifteen chapters would be a successful outline of a weekly course dedicated to exploring the practice and applications of Mindfulness in the Law.

-The book, at just over 200 pages, could be on a recommended summer reading list for new law students, and then form the basis for well-being and orientation programming.

-The sections of the text that focus on listening, negotiation, judgment (and ethics), leadership, and creativity could be part of courses that focus on these particular skills, or included in law clinics, externships, or other experiential learning classes where these skills are taught.

As we explore new curricular options and models around professional identity in 1L and upper-level courses, consider whether The Mindful Law Student would be an appropriate addition to your curriculum.

For More Information:

Contact Elgar Publishing for a copy of The Mindful Law Student so that you can consider strategies for integrating this practice guide into your professional identity teaching.


Other useful resources include:

Mindfulness in Law Society website:

UMindfulness at the University of Miami

Mindfulness in Law Program at the University of Miami School of Law

Please feel free to reach out to me at jstearns@law.miami.edu if you have any questions or comments.

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

Leah Teague

“The Difference Makers”: Professional Identity of Lawyers in America

By: Leah Witcher Jackson Teague, Professor of Law & Director of Business Law Programs, Baylor Law School

As law schools consider suitable approaches to professional identity formation, insight can be found in applicants’ personal statements. Many aspiring law students express a desire to “make a difference.” Students enter our law schools committed to using their time, talent, and efforts as lawyers to make a difference in the lives of clients or in their community or to have an impact that ripples throughout society. They want to solve problems for individuals who are less fortunate or to positively impact a larger group for the “greater good.” Law school personnel applaud those intentions for we know that lawyers are difference makers. It is part of our professional identity and our obligation to society. Shouldn’t law schools strive to equip and inspire law students to be difference makers?

The Preamble to the ABA Model Rules for Professional Conduct provides instruction about the role of lawyers in America: “A lawyer is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.” Lawyers have a special obligation to society as keepers of the rule of law and protectors of individual freedoms and rights. And as clients and organizations look to us for representation, guidance, and leadership, lawyers have the opportunity to address important issues that impact not only our nation but also the future of the legal profession. A law student’s journey to becoming an honorable member of this profession should include attention to these important issues and the role of lawyers in helping to secure our nation’s system of governance.

At Baylor Law, professional development and informal leadership development have always been woven into the education and training of every Baylor Law student. From the emphasis on service during the first day of orientation through our nationally-renowned third-year Practice Court program, Baylor Law faculty strive to develop individuals who will be prepared for the challenges of the legal profession and equipped to serve effectively. As a result, we proudly watch Baylor Lawyers serve their clients effectively and lead within the profession and throughout their communities.

In 2014, we implemented two programs to be more intentional about preparing our students to enter the profession as competent and prepared professionals who are ready to serve and lead. Both programs have been recognized by the ABA with its prestigious E. Smythe Gambrell Professionalism Award. In 2018, our Practice Ready Professional Development Program received the Gambrell award. This past August, Baylor Law’s innovative Leadership Development Program was honored with the recognition.

In future posts we will provide more details about recent changes to our professional identity formation efforts, including the expansion of our Professional Development Program. Through our required Professional Development Program, students must attend 21 professional development training sessions (60 to 90 minutes each). Some are mandatory, but most are not, giving students options from a wide variety of subjects. We offer between 6 and 10 sessions each of our four academic terms per year to provide students with a selection of topics that are aligned with their career aspirations.

Our Leadership Development Program focuses on professional competencies and skills that better prepare students for the challenges that await them after graduation and that better equip them for the important roles they will assume as they enter our noble profession. The objectives of the Leadership Development Program are to encourage and assist law students to:

  1. Embrace their professional identity as they serve clients and society;
  2. Develop competencies and skills to succeed; and
  3. Boldly seek opportunities to make a difference in the profession, their communities, and the world.

We want to help them become their best self and reach their potential. Throughout their time at Baylor, we strive to introduce students to values-based professional development and leadership development concepts that provide the means to be more effective difference makers by helping them:

  • better understand their talents and shortcomings;
  • garner courage to make course corrections as appropriate;
  • improve their professional skills;
  • make decisions guided by ethics and values;
  • embrace failure as opportunities for growth;
  • value differences when working with others;
  • build stronger, productive working relationships with others;
  • think strategically and imagine possibilities;
  • prioritize wellness for themselves and others; and
  • seek to add value wherever they go.

Even before the new requirements in the amendments to ABA Standard 303(b) we sought to address the professional identity formation of our law students. The recent amendments provided an opportunity to consider further enhancements to our program. We look forward to sharing our progress with you in future posts.

Thanks to each of you for your good efforts! I know the work can be challenging and the progress dilatory, but I am so encouraged by all the consequential work occurring throughout legal education

For more information, please feel free to reach out to me at Leah_Teague@baylor.edu.

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